In 2012, I was walking from my parking lot into the State Fair when someone with a clipboard stopped me to talk about the VOTE NO campaign. I assured her that I was absolutely, positively voting no. She said, “we’re actually out today looking for people to volunteer!” I hesitated, because I really didn’t want the constitutional amendment to pass, but I don’t like calling people up or knocking on doors. “We really need volunteers,” she said. “If the election were held today, we would lose. We really need volunteers.”
So, I signed up, and I did persuasion phone calling once a week until we switched over to GOTV at the end of October. It was hard but not impossible, and some days were incredibly satisfying, like the time I spoke with an older man who was a committed “yes” voter, but when I started to end the call interrupted me and asked how I was voting, and why. And as I talked to him about the people I love and care about, his voice got softer and less angry and confrontational. I could hear his mind opening and the sunlight coming in. It really felt pretty miraculous, frankly.
And not only did we defeat both the evil constitutional amendments that year (there was also a proposed Voter ID law on the ballot), we turned both the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate blue.
And I haven’t volunteered since, because I hate phone banking. But this year I signed up to do it, because … I feel kind of superstitious. In 2016, I assumed that everyone would be as motivated to get out and vote as I was, based just on how self-evidently horrifying Trump was, and I was clearly wrong.
So this year I’m volunteering. I went today to Take Action Minnesota’s office on Raymond Avenue and did phone banking from noon to three. (Well, 12:30 to 2:45. There was training, and then there was debriefing.) And I signed up to do more shifts of either phone banking or door knocking this week and next weekend.
It wasn’t terrible: lots of people thanked me for volunteering, even as they assured me that they would crawl over ground glass if they had to, to get to the polls. (Also, I spent a lot of time dialing and then getting people’s voicemail. That was super easy.) One woman said her mother would need a ride to the polls, and Take Action will set her up. I chatted with a really delightful student from Macalester who’s voting for the very first time.
Here I am with the group I phonebanked with:
If you’re interested in volunteering, there’s a website that appears to be sort of the ActBlue for Campaign Volunteering, MobilizeAmerica. Plug in your city and you’ll get a whole list of times and places to volunteer, with all sorts of options: door knocking, phone banking, text banking.
Here’s a list for Minneapolis.
Here’s a list for Saint Paul.
The TakeAction MN events are here, and that’s where I volunteered today. I liked them: they’re right on the Green Line (seriously, less than a five-minute walk from the Raymond Ave stop) or, if you want to drive (I drove) on-street parking is abundant and easy to find. It’s wheelchair accessible, they have snacks, and it’s set up to be a reasonably comfortable and well-organized office.
You can also sign up through individual candidates’ sites.
The blue wave will only happen if we make it happen. If you can find time, spoons, and emotional energy to volunteer, please consider doing so. (And if you get six calls from volunteers at two different organizations and four different campaigns, please consider not biting off the heads of caller #5 and #6 to be a contribution of emotional energy to a Democratic victory? I, too, wish there were better coordination! Ed and I have now been door-knocked twice. Once today, from Take Action MN, an hour after I got home from phone banking at Take Action MN! I told the canvasser as much and he laughed ruefully and said, “well, I guess … I don’t really need to worry about who you’re voting for and whether you’re committed to voting?”)
(If you hate the idea of calling people but desperately want to be useful, you could also look to see where the GOTV locations are and bring them all snacks. There’s also text banking, I’m pretty sure there are data entry volunteers at Take Action, there was someone who was checking everyone else in, there are volunteers who just call people who’ve committed to do a volunteer shift to remind them to come… there are a lot of options, some of which do not require talking to anyone.)