What’s needed now is focus on the most reliable method to get out the vote: personal contact.
It’s mid-December, which means it’s crunch time for the upcoming Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia, where Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock hope to edge out Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to flip the US Senate blue. Doing so will give President-elect Joe Biden some leverage when it comes to implementing some of the policies he campaigned on.
It’s clear that Georgians understand what’s at stake. The first day of early in-person voting on Monday brought out a tsunami of voters: Some 168,000 cast their ballot that day, an increase of 23% compared to the first day of early voting in October for the presidential election. Forty-one percent of these voters were Black.
State data published Friday showed more than 1.1 million Georgians have already voted in the runoffs.
Across the state, volunteers and organizers have been contacting voters around the clock. What’s needed now is focus on the most reliable method to get out the vote: personal contact. With so little time left, volunteers must find ways to engage voters in conversations to get them to the polls.
That’s where you come in. If you call Georgia home, below are some ways you can get involved.
Help your fellow voters figure out their voting plan by signing up for a phone bank to ensure people have the information and tools they need to vote.
The mere thought of phonebanking can make some folks queasy. Who wants to talk to strangers on the phone nowadays? While the candidates run their own phone banks, organizations like Fair Fight offer numerous opportunities to make nonpartisan calls. Here, you’ll assist voters with their voting plan: how to request or return their absentee ballots and where and when to vote in person. But you won’t ask them who they plan to vote for.
If you’re still not sure whether phonebanking is your cup of tea, join a phonebank training. You’ll learn how to use the app, Open Virtual Phone Bank, which provides a detailed script and voter information. This allows you to test drive phonebanking without committing to making calls.
Call or text specific constituency groups in their own language.
Knock on voters’ doors.
Canvassing is in full swing, and it’s happening all over Georgia. There is nothing that can replace face-to-face contact with Georgia voters (with masks and social distancing, of course), and canvassing door to door is the best way to achieve this.
The good news is you don’t have to worry about what to say when a voter answers the door. An app (Democratic candidates use one called MiniVAN) displays a script with specific questions for the voter: “Will you vote early? Will you support X candidate? Do you know where your polling location is?” The canvasser then enters the voters’ answers and then hits the next house.
Chat up your preferred candidates with people you actually know IRL.
You’ve heard of a phone bank, but what about a friend bank? While traditional phone or text banks require you to contact voters you don’t know, friend banks (or relational organizing) connects you with people who are already in your network.
Sharing election information within communities has always been a powerful tool in political organizing, but it’s been especially vital during COVID. Friend banks use apps to streamline this process and take it to the next level. These banks work best with folks who are either Georgia residents or have a large network in Georgia.
The Warnock and Ossoff campaigns are training volunteers using two different apps, OutVote and Reach, which help volunteers text and call folks within their own social circles by importing the contacts from your phone and helping you create personalized messages with vital election information. They also keep track of who you’ve talked to and make it easy to follow up with them.
Display a yard sign.
Campaign signs remind voters about the election and create a feeling of camaraderie among voters supporting the same candidates. Still need a campaign yard sign? Pick up a few at a drive-thru yard sign giveaway. Put them in your yard or in your window, and place another one near an early voting location. Just make sure it’s at least 150 feet away from the outside corner of the building. If not, it’s in violation of state law and will be taken down.
Attend a sign-waving rally.
Grab a political sign, your friends, and wave signs at a busy intersection to support your candidate. Sign-waving rallies get people excited about participating in this vital democratic process, and they can also be an excellent way to recruit more volunteers. With masks and social distancing, they’re also a relatively safe activity. While sign-waving rallies are typically organized by local political organizations or individuals, sometimes the campaigns and the Democratic Party organize them too.
Help ensure every registered Georgian is able to exercise their right to vote.
The Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Fair Fight (among other organizations) train volunteers to do election protection work, which can include reporting and documenting issues that voters encounter at the polls. The ballot cure team at the Democratic Party of Georgia is currently seeking volunteers to call voters in English or Spanish who are experiencing delays in receiving their absentee ballots.
You can also help spread the word about voter protection hotlines, which Georgians can call if they have any questions or issues voting. They are available in multiple languages including English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683); Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-866-839-8682); Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US (1-844-925-5287). For Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese, call 1-888-274-8683.
Train to be a poll observer.
Poll observers are volunteers who station themselves near polling places, talk with voters, and report any issues the voters may have experienced while casting their ballot. Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Fair Fight are seeking poll observers to monitor polling locations for the runoff election.
Georgians are being flooded with postcards, but voters still need them in non-English languages. Sign up to write postcards for the Ossoff campaign in Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Urdu.
Still not sure where to dedicate your time? Consider joining the newly formed Georgia Volunteer Hub. During a weekly Georgia Grassroots Table, organizers from local voter outreach groups gather, introduce themselves and their organizations, and explain what kind of volunteer help they need for the runoff election. These meetings will provide you an inside look into how organizations are working to get out the vote and help you figure out where your skills set can best be put to use.
Editor’s note: The writer is a co-founder of They See Blue Georgia, an organization working to advance progressive South Asian civic engagement and flip seats Georgia blue.