The sudden and confusing inability to vote in-person on our original Election Day; the rapid transition to vote-by-mail with an April 28 deadline; the calling of the nation’s Democratic primary before Ohioans had their votes counted — many of us have scarcely enough energy to process all of the chaos of the recent primary, let alone determine how to politically volunteer during a pandemic.
Activist groups are working hard to re-invent their campaign strategies for the November elections, but transitioning to a socially-distant-yet-effective model is a yeoman’s task. How do candidates and voting rights organizations engage voters when they can’t go door-to-door, can’t be at festival tables, can’t chat with people outside of libraries & grocery stores?
Besides turning to costly strategies like snail mail, organizations and candidates are making use of online tools such as FaceTime, digital town halls, and social media.
Whatever the strategy, though, volunteerism continues to be a critical component. Says Sue Dean-Dyke of Mobilize the Vote, “We know this is going to be a slog. We just have to wrap our minds around that. Volunteers need to be patient and ready for direction. We are going to do whatever we can to make it fun and interesting,” adding that “we are going to have to dig deep in order to make a difference in this election.”
It starts with you, now:
Dean-Dyke encourages us to think NOW about our interests and abilities to get involved. Voting activists groups typically build their volunteer capacity during these warming months; moreover, candidates will be ramping-up earlier and with greater need since the pandemic prevents them from relying on traditional public gatherings or door-to-door outreach. Nonetheless, Dean-Dyke explains that “it’s okay if it takes a while for you to show up. We know that people will be ready at different times. We are ready for that.”
Getting involved requires you to take initiative, as soon as the time is right for you. Activists groups must channel every dollar and all of their energy into new outreach methods. They have neither the funds nor the mechanisms to recruit you. It may take some time for your outreach to yield an assignment–they’re all essentially changing a car into an airplane, while in motion. You matter immensely, though, and they will find a place for you.
Focus first on Ohio races:
We’re all going to have to work harder to be informed citizens (particularly in light of the furloughing of news staff.) Moreover, we especially need to dedicate time and energy to Ohio politics because the people we elect in November will be drawing our maps and affecting our state for the next ten years. This article helps frame the importance of how to channel your energy in this regard.
Voting activists stress the importance of us all paying attention to our Statehouse. As Rachel Coyle, co-founder of How Things Work at The Statehouse, points out, “no one’s paying attention to Statehouses, so they don’t meet much resistance.”
In the Ohio State Senate, Democrats are three seats away from breaking Ohio’s veto-proof supermajority. In the Ohio State House of Representatives, they are two seats away. Wins would give progressives the power to stop bad legislation, where currently there is no such check/balance.
Likewise, the 2020 Election presents the chance to flip the Ohio Supreme Court. Supreme Court candidates do not have party affiliations, as judgeships are considered non partisan races. A balanced court — not aligned with legislative supermajorities — is essential for all Ohioans. The Democratic Party endorses candidates Jennifer L. Brunner and John P. O’Donnell. Knowing their names matters: party endorsements are not printed on ballots.
How much bandwidth do you have?
If you can do only one thing, set a single goal, such as:
PARTICIPATE. Attend one informational event online per week. Choose among voting rights groups like the League of Women Voters of Ohio; Common Cause Ohio; state law-making and candidates via How Things Work at The Statehouse; or a candidate’s event. Don’t worry about joining online meetings late. They’ll be happy to have you.
SPEAK UP. Demand that our state legislators make it easier for Ohioans to vote in November. Use this online form to submit a letter today and/or contact your state legislator directly. You can also participate in this online effort to make your voice heard.
DONATE. If your bandwidth is limited, consider making a small donation to the Ohio House Democratic Caucus to help flip seats across the state, or donate to Ohio Senate Democrats individually or collectively. Click here to find other groups you may want to support.
When you have more capacity, you can up the ante:
LEARN. Get to know candidates in adjacent or distant districts.
ADAPT. Learn how organizations are going to modify their work for voter registration drives to accommodate social distancing.
INVITE. Invite others to join the one online event a week you attend.
SHARE. Share what you’ve learned with others; bring them into the fold.
DONATE. If able to make a financial commitment, choose one voting rights organization and one (or more) candidate to support early and often. Even $5 donations add up.
AMPLIFY. Comment on and share social media content from candidates and voting rights groups.
When you’re able to make a commitment, volunteer:
SIGN UP. Become a volunteer with an organization whose on-the-ground work has impressed you (see the list below for ideas).
DOUBLE DOWN. Volunteer for a favorite candidate while continuing your work as a voting rights volunteer.
INVITE. Share your experiences with others. Encourage them to join you or to find a volunteer role that is a good fit for them.
AMPLIFY. Share social media content about voting-related volunteerism. You’ll inspire others!
Ohio Voting Rights Groups:
National Voting Rights Groups:
When We All Vote (Michelle Obama)
Fair Fight (Stacey Abrams)