If you missed SBA’s February All Volunteer Roundup, you missed a lot! As one of the attendees wrote, “I can’t sit back and do nothing when democracy is at stake. Hearing the impact volunteers made convinced me it’s possible to make a difference.”
You can watch the video of the presentation and/or read on.
Win Blue NH
The meeting kicked off with an update of everything going on in NH. Paula Joseph, NH Co-coordinator, reminded the audience of the (huge) role local elections play in protecting the vote forall elections. By putting strong Democrats into positions like Town Moderator and Supervisor of the Checklist, voters have a say in how elections are administered, who can register, and which ballots are counted.
Right now, volunteers are collecting voter input to better hone the message for US Rep Chris Pappas’ November campaign. In each phone conversation, they are using a deep canvassing approach to help prospective voters explore what is important, what concerns them, and what hopes they have going forward.
Win Blue NH runs training to help canvassers learn and hone their phone banking and canvassing skills.
Plans for Postcards and Letters
In 2020, SBA carried out extensive letter writing and postcard campaigns. While results varied by county and population segment, the mailings did have a measurable impact on voter turnout.
Richard Segan, SBA’s postcard guru, described some of the techniques SBA used, including pre-stamped ballot requests. Frustratingly, many of these methods are no longer possible due to the massive Republican voter suppression efforts.
As a result, SBA is actively scoping out different postcard and mail options. Richard and his team are talking to our grassroots partners, identifying postcard opportunities that will help Democrats win elections.
SBA Participates in Hardcore Academic Research
SBA was thrilled and honored when Ron Rapoport, Professor Emeritus of Government at William and Mary, asked if we would be interested in participating in a new project. The goal of his research was to learn more about what left-leaning activists think about politics and what they do to have an impact.
With Drew Engelhardt, Assistant Professor of Political Science at UNC Greensboro, Rapoport and SBA leaders developed a survey and sent it to all SBA volunteers. The 2,100 respondents indicated how active our volunteers are. For example:
- 95% were active in politics in some way
- 80% donated to Democratic candidates and causes
- 20% look forward to canvassing in person, COVID and weather permitting
Most volunteers (80%) felt most comfortable writing postcards and letters. Understandably, they liked the mailing to be informative and action-oriented rather than advocating for a particular candidate.
Seventy percent of respondents believe that the best way to swing Congress Blue is to elect Democrats into local/district positions. Thirty percent were interested in electing progressive Democrats.
The most important issues to our volunteers are, in order, voting rights, climate, and economic equality. In contrast, they believe that Biden’s priorities are jobs, trade, and climate.
The Power Behind Volunteers T*B*D
There actually is a “best” way for volunteers in blue states to help on-the-ground Dems win elections in red and purple states. The most effective action we can take is to re-engage and support volunteers in the areas where every Democratic vote could change the direction of our country.
Volunteers Taking Back Democracy (Volunteers T*B*D) is a multi-year project to strengthen Democratic volunteerism in swing states. The group calls former volunteers in who have the experience, knowledge of their communities, and credibility when it comes to talking to voters.
Some former volunteers hesitate to get back “into the fray.” After all, volunteering requires a significant output of positive energy, especially with the prospect of unsuccessful attempts to connect with voters.
The Volunteer T*B*D Calling Corps have become experts at engaging these inactive activists. They have learned proven techniques to ease the awkward opening moments of the call, keep the conversation going, and engage with the prospective volunteer.
At the Roundup, Victoria Levi, a community psychiatrist with years of experience in motivational interviewing, demonstrated how building relationships can maximize recruitment efforts. At the end of the conversation, the interviewee said, “I guess I have been feeling that no one is paying attention and so I lost interest,” and agreed to sign up for an event.
Winning in Red Districts
Jeff Blum, lead organizer of All In for NC, started this part of the Roundup with a news clip of the active voter suppression tactics. The incident occurred in Alamance County, home of his guest speakers, Montrena Hadley, the first Black woman elected to the Mebane City Council, and Elaine Berry, former Alamance Co. Democratic Party Chair. These strong women explained and gave examples of why they were successful in this heavily red county.
Montrena Hadley described how pairing in-state and out-of-state phone callers helped her win. During her election, they did everything together, from making calls to driving voters to the polls. Due to their efforts, Hadley’s team raised voter participation from an average of 1,200 to 4,600 ballots.
Blum then described Elaine Berry as the Dems’ “secret weapon in much of NC.” Berry, who helped elect Hadley, spoke about the power of organizing to change political results. She described how open-ended phone calls and door-to-door canvassing have more impact than mailings and other noninteractive contact. Candidates used input from those conversations to refine their platforms.
Both women believe that local candidates — the ones who speak directly to voters’ needs – drive turnout. That turnout increases the chances of up-ballot candidates like Ricky Hurtado, NC House Rep, and Cheri Beasley, who is running for US Senate.
If you want to get involved in NC elections, contact Jeff Blum.
At the close of the meeting, we awarded our customary door prize: a Swing Blue Alliance mug. Attendees stayed for the optional Q&A.