I’d been an activist for many years before I became a postcard event organizer. Then, back in 2020, I heard Richard Segan talk about Swing Blue Alliance’s vote-by-mail research. His presentation made it clear that SBA’s approach to postcards and letters actually do affect voter behavior. I’d done canvassing and phone banking, but postcards were a lot more appealing.
My spouse, Patty, and I agreed to work as a team and figured we’d recruit 10 neighbors at Glassbury Court in Cold Spring, NY, to write postcards. Through the grapevine, we ended up with 20.
Eventually, there were over 50 volunteers cranking out postcards at one time or another. It just happened through word-of-mouth way, beyond our neighbors: friends of friends, other neighbors, and college and high school classmates. They were in NYC, Westchester, Long Island, Ohio, California, Florida, Connecticut, Maryland, and even Mexico!
Our group developed a real sense of community, with an informal newsletter of updates and Zoom-based communications. Together, we celebrated Biden’s win with an evening of treats and sparklers.
Allaying my fears
When I started, I was really worried about asking volunteers to cover the costs. We didn’t want payment to be a financial barrier, so we asked people to contribute what they could. In addition, we told writers they could pay more to subsidize those who couldn’t afford the program. We ended up with a $300 surplus! The funds went to down-ballot candidates that we selected together in a Zoom meeting.
Best of all, SBA leaders — Richard Segan, Julia Rabkin, and Susan Labandibar — were available at all hours, whenever we had questions. Plus, they held monthly Zoom roundups and kept up a constant flow of info and connected us to on-the-ground Democratic party leadership. We never felt asea.
During the 2020 elections, we hosted eight or nine events, disseminating 33k (!) postcards to voters across Florida. Volunteers participated because they believed in bipartisan support for preserving Democracy, abortion rights, gun safety, climate change, jobs, and voter protection, with voting by mail being especially important in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, we’re beginning to distribute letters for the 2022 midterms. We expect to recruit at least 25 letter writers in the next two weeks. The letters, which include county-approved vote-by-mail applications, are going to Pennsylvania. The goal is to increase voter turnout for the U.S. Senate and Gubernatorial races.
With Democrats and Republicans in Kansas voting to safeguard freedom of choice, we are more motivated than ever before that grassroots organizing can make a difference in getting out the vote.
Patty and I are vote-by-mail organizers because we are committed to seeking change in national leadership. American labor and community organizer Saul Alinsky once said, “There are two sources of power – money and people.” Swing Blue Alliance gives organizers the opportunity to mobilize the power of “people” who can influence political outcomes at a critical crossroads in our nation’s history.
Alan Brownstein, National Health Organization Executive (retired) and SBA Organizer