Finishing the Job: How Democrats Are Running GOTV In The Age of COVID

We now have just over two weeks until Election Day, but given the unprecedented number of absentee ballots and early votes cast, the reality is that every day is election day. Already, over 8 million votes have been registered, and with more states opening up early voting in the next few days, that number will soon jump even higher.

With that in mind, the traditional weekend-before-the-election GOTV just won’t cut it this year. We need to be taking action now. Here at Progressives Everywhere, we’ve raised over $40,000 for GOTV groups this year, most of it over the last few months. Now, we want to go all-in on raising needed cash to help these organizations maximize their voter contacts over the next few weeks. It requires cash to run their advanced digital systems, pay field employees, and advertise online, so let’s help them as best we can.

Below, I spoke with leaders of two of the major grassroots organizations doing the hard work to put Democrats over the top when all the votes are counted. I can’t think of any better investment right now, so please help them finish off Donald Trump and the GOP with whatever kind of investment you can offer.

Community Change Action

Established in 1968, Community Change has been around since the tail end of the last civil rights era. This year, the organization is working to usher in a new era of civil rights advocacy and advancement by massively expanding its operations and connecting with voters beyond the typical checklist phone call or text message.

With a focus on working people and people of color, Community Change stands as a crucial link to underserved but enormously crucial voting blocs who often wind up disenfranchised at the ballot box and in policymaking.

“We believe that by engaging people who have been historically disengaged, we not only change the ultimate outcome of the election, but we also are building their long-term infrastructure and organizing capacity that we need to achieve progressive political agenda,” Grecia Lima, the national political director at Community Change, tells Progressives Everywhere. “We want for them to find a political home inside of their state that they can continue to be connected to, even after the election.”

Community Change Action, the organization’s political action arm, is now operating in eight states and 28 congressional districts. It’s running its own grassroots outreach campaigns in Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Colorado, while it has teamed with three other progressive groups — Planned Parenthood, SEIU, and Color of Change — for huge voter contact campaigns in Florida, Nevada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Thus far, Community Change has engaged 6.1 million voters with 11 million phone calls and 2.3 million text messages. The numbers date back to January, but most of them have come in the last few weeks. The group has been busy, to say the least.

Then there is the organization’s relational voter contact program, which asks members to send messages to and communicate with people they know, including friends, family members, and neighbors. With 5281 relational leaders throughout its coveted territory, Community Change’s relations voter program has made another 3.8 million actions, which include calls, text messages, and messages on other platforms like Facebook Messenger.

The group hasn’t directly encouraged door-knocking by its volunteers and activists, though it’ll help partner organizations if they decide to do so. But in this unprecedentedly awful year of mass casualties, illness, unemployment, mourning, and isolation, Lima says people have been unusually welcoming and even solicitous of meaningful conversation over both phone and text. The conversations have taught them a lot about how to more effectively communicate with voters and people who feel overwhelmed by politics.

“People are hesitant about policies, but they’re very certain about their feelings,” Lima says. “When we experienced the passing of George Floyd, we sent out two different sets of text messages. One that said, ‘What do you think are the policies that we should create moving forward?’ And the other one said ‘What do you feel the policies moving forward should be?’ And just that very minor change created a way different response.”

As you speak with people about the election over the next few weeks, that’s something to keep in mind — emotions have never been higher and conversations have never been at more of a premium. Feelings are going to get people to the ballot box.

Donate to Progressive GOTV Groups!

Progressive Turnout Project

One of the premier national GOTV groups this cycle, the Progressive Turnout Project has expanded its focus even further, with a whopping 20 states that it hopes to either help keep in the Democratic column or flip from red to blue.

PTP’s target list includes all the states that Community Change is working on as well as a few more swing states and a handful of steeper climbs. Its additional states include Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.

“What we really want to do is talk to folks about the issues that are most important to them and connect them to what’s on the ballot and to who’s on the ballot,” Will Mantell, the group’s press secretary, tells Progressives Everywhere. “We’re also really focused on talking to folks about the voting options that are available to them, especially in the face of the misinformation that is coming from the President and members of his party.”

Like Community Change, the Progressive Turnout Project is focused on calls and texts. And just as Community Change prizes meaningful conversations between volunteers and voters, PTP values on-the-ground organizing and a command of local issues and concerns. For that reason, the group has 1000 paid staff spread out across 17 of the 20 states to go with 37,000 volunteer callers and letter-writers.

This manifests itself in more intimate, informed interactions and contacts with voters who are likely overwhelmed with the number of people trying to get their vote. For example, in Kalamazoo, MI, the local letter-writers are including details about environmental issues impacting the region and insurance rates they all have to pay. If people feel like someone understands their problems, they’re much more likely to listen to the rest of their message, especially if it offers some kind of solution.

With so many states in its crosshairs, PTP has put up some astounding voter contact numbers. By November 3rd, their employees and volunteers will have made 55 million calls and sent 500,000 hand-written letters to voters. And considering how confusing voting has gotten — the absentee ballot laws tend to change daily due to court battles — the contact is essential for basically everyone.

“A lot of the folks we talked to are inconsistent Democratic voters, so they may not be following every update on Twitter or following every update in Politico,” Mantell says. “So I think folks appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation to be able to ask questions and to be able to make a plan and understand the rules for voting in their state. We do have a lot of conversations where we’re walking folks through what the regulations are, how to vote by mail, and encouraging them to that ballot back in as early as possible.”

Donate to Progressive GOTV Groups!

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