Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Talky Tuesday: Phonebanking for Viriginia

Local elections are coming up in Virginia. Local elections are also the ones that most voters don't bother voting in, which is how we end up with backwards-ass local governments that [insert your particular most-hated pet peeve here].

I'm unable to absentee vote in the small local elections coming up this year in Pennsylvania, so instead I'm opting to phonebank for Virginia.

Why Virginia?

Pundits and politicians are considering the local races in Virginia as a miniature bellweather on the current administration. If Republican candidates do exceptionally well, or as well as they always do, then Republican politicians in other seats will be less inclined to break from White House policy and rhetoric. But if they end up losing seats, or just having closer races that require more spending, then they might less inclined to tow the current party line.

But I'm not from Virginia!

Neither am I. There is an ethical question of how much moral right you have to try and influence another state's (or commonweath's) election. I can't answer that for you; I can only say that 1) since I'm not allowed to absentee vote in the races going on in PA, I want to do something civic-minded and 2) I put national interests over state borders. I'm not from Virginia but we're all Americans, right? Otherwise, feel free to research any local events that are closer to where you live. There are local elections happening all over the country!

What is phonebanking?

It's calling people and talking to them a bit and making notes in a database. If you've been using 5calls.org on the regular, you already know that they've diverted some of their resources to helping out Danica Roem. If you're interested in other races in Virginia, MobilizeAmerica has a whole bunch. listed, as does Indivisible. (If you're not keen on helping in Virginia, you can put in your ZIP code into MobilizeAmerica's website and find a more local event to support.)

But I hate the phone!

Me too! I don't know what to tell you except power through it. I made about 20 calls before I went to work yesterday, and I spoke to one person (who was perfectly nice, though too busy to talk). Depending on the time of day, lots of people won't be home. And a few numbers will be straight up disconnected. You can think about it was gathering data for the group—finding out which numbers have been disconnected—instead of trying to talk to someone. And if you do end up talking to another human being, you'll have a script of what to say right in front of you!

But it was still really stressful and I thought my heart would jackhammer right out of my chest. I did it, and I'll do it again, and maybe if I do it enough times it'll be no big deal.

 "Get Out the Vote" phonebanks also involve simply reminding people to vote—not trying to campaign for a particular candidate. And finally, we live in a time where you can sign up for "Get Out the Vote" text campaigns, so you don't have to call anyone at all! What a time to be alive.

The other piece of advice I have for phone calls is to be kind to yourself beforehand. I brewed some of my favorite tea that one of my friends back in the US sent me, lit a stick of my favorite "special occasions only" Japanese incense, and listened to some of my favorite Ur-American music: Fanfare for the Common Man, Rhapsody in Blue, etc.

If you're okay with the phone but are anxious about confrontation, you can try to focus on phonebanks that mobilize registered party members to vote rather than phonebanks that try to sway undecided voters.

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