GOTV In The Time Of COVID

By Karolina Newcombe, WashCo Dems Communications Committee


If you’re a political junkie like me, then you too may have memories of lovely fall days spent knocking doors and dropping lit, and of getting to chat people up face to face about your favorite candidate or ballot measure.

And then 2020 arrived.  Suddenly, we can’t get together.  We can’t breathe on each other.  We’re certainly not able to canvass.

But it’s not as if the upcoming election is any less important than previous ones–it may very well be one of the most significant elections of our lifetime.

So what is a person who is passionate about the future and well-being of her country to do?

Turns out, campaigns are getting creative and still finding countless ways to reach out to voters.  You too can get involved in a way which matches your talents and preferences, such as….

Calls, Calls, Calls–Long gone are the days when in order to phone bank, you had to go to an actual office with actual phones. Now, you can comfortably make calls from home, and you often don’t even need a phone anymore.  Since most campaigns use call center-style automatic dialer software, all you need is a laptop or computer with a compatible browser.  So the pandemic hasn’t put much of a damper on traditional phone banking.

Of course, if you’re making calls from home all by yourself, it might get a little depressing.  If you find yourself missing the camaraderie of joking around with other volunteers or being able to gripe at someone about the occasional rude person, there are lots of opportunities to join a phone bank party on Zoom.  These virtual get-togethers usually feature hangout and conversation time before or after the calls get made.

And here is an unexpected silver lining of the pandemic:  phone bankers have reported that because so many people feel isolated right now, they are much more open to having a conversation when called.

If you’re interested in ridin’ with Biden or calling battleground states to flip the Senate, Mobilize is a great site to find phone banking events in your area.  If you’d rather make calls for one of your favorite local progressives, hit up their website or Facebook page for details about how to volunteer.

Texting–But what if you are too nervous to make phone calls?  You could psyche yourself up by reading my article about phone banking and canvassing for introverts–or, you could try texting.  Not only is this a less intimidating way to reach out to voters, a text conversation is something you can fit in around other activities, like watching TV or cleaning.  An example of a popular program used by campaigns for texting is ThruText.

The text messages you will be sending will be pre-typed and customized with the person’s name, making this super easy.  A friend who does GOTV texting shoots off about 100 texts in minutes, and then handles the responses as they come in throughout the day.

A note about privacy:  When you use phone banking or texting software in your browser, the people you contact will not see your phone number.

Letters and Postcards–The pandemic is causing some of us to reach way back to even more old-fashioned methods of communication.  Yes, you can send hand-written letters or postcards to voters!

I can speak from experience when I say that writing a heartfelt note to someone in a swing state can be excellent therapy for the quarantine blues.

By far, the biggest letter-writing project is Vote Forward. The ambitious goal of their Big Send project is to send 10 million letters with a personal message encouraging people from traditionally underrepresented communities to register to vote.  There is still plenty of time to participate–in order to achieve the biggest impact, letters will not be mailed out until October.

Social Media–Much like streaming video and other forms of at-home entertainment, the use of social media is up.  This is an ideal time to promote our values and our candidates on all the social media platforms, as your posts are likely to get noticed.  And while you can share posts and Tweets from your favorite Democratic candidates, it’s even better if you can create personal content.  Facebook, in particular, tends to favor personally created posts over shared links in its algorithm.  So, share that phonebanking selfie, or Tweet a picture of your Joe Biden pie…or, just write a few words about your values and why you will be supporting the Democrats this fall.

Lawn Signs–Don’t underestimate the staying power of good old lawn signs.  Right now, many of your neighbors (including my family) are spending a lot more time walking around their own neighborhood.  A lawn sign can get attention–and can spark a conversation about a candidate or ballot measure.  Pro tip from our party vice-chair:  If you notice that one of your neighbors has a sign up for a Democratic candidate, why not approach them about being a neighborhood leader or otherwise volunteering for the local party?

Zoom Events–If there’s one theme that keeps popping up over and over again in this article, it’s this:  Except for the most hardcore introverts, people are missing human interaction right now.  So, if you organize a virtual get-together, your friends will likely show up.  You can host a happy hour, share funny political videos from your desktop, and turn your event into a call to action to persuade your friends to volunteer for your fave candidate.  And if you promote your event on Facebook or Mobilize, you can reach far beyond your friend circle.  One of my local Oregon activist groups had a participant from New York City attend their Save The USPS event.

So turn on your computer…turn on your phone…put on your mask…go on your socially distanced walk…and keep reaching out to your fellow Americans and talking to them about why it is so, so crucial we vote this November.

Yes, this year has been tough.  Yes, we’re anxious and exhausted.  But if we don’t want things to get even worse, we need to take every opportunity we can to make sure that more Democrats get elected, and that Trump leaves office.

Let’s get to work, team!