A Handy Pandemic-Proof Guide to Getting Out the Vote

Before you fill out your ballot, encourage others to do the same.

By Morgan Westling September 30, 2020

It's that time again.

“The Big One” is coming sooner than we think.  

No, not the Cascadia quake, although with the way 2020 has been going so far, we wouldn’t rule that out. We’re talking about the presidential election, now just 35 days away. 

Normally at this pre-election stage, campaigns would be barreling full-speed ahead into door-knocking campaigns, sending armies of volunteers out with targeted lists of voters. Studies have shown that these kind of face-to-face get-out-the-vote efforts, while labor intensive, offer the best return on investment.  

This year, of course, finding a stranger at the door might have exactly the opposite effect, infuriating COVID-wary residents and driving them away from the candidate. 

So local and national campaigns are turning to virtual GOTV efforts to supplement the traditional TV ads and political mailers that will start arriving in the coming weeks. Here’s how to get involved if you want to jump on the bandwagon. 

Call Voters 

Do you have a race about which you are passionate? Maybe you're super into the Portland City Council matchup between Chloe Eudaly and Mingus Mapps, or you want to scale way up and fight for Joe Biden? Whatever your campaign of choice, they will gladly put you to work phone banking. 

Phone banking may seem like an old school strategy, but it’s the next best thing to door-to-door canvassing in terms of getting out the vote. Particularly in COVID times, some people may be craving human interaction and will welcome an unexpected phone call. 

You don’t have to be a sales guru to successfully turn out voters over the phone. Most campaigns provide training, a call list, and a script. Using your cell phone and a computer, you'll call voters from the safety of your home, record the data, and (hopefully) make some meaningful connections along the way. 

Activate Your Neighborhood  

Though you may not be able to knock on doors, you can definitely leave pamphlets and info on voter doorsteps (just make sure you wear a mask while up on people's porches). 

One example: the Multnomah County Democrats have created the Neighborhood Leader Program to increase voter turnout within Portland. As a neighborhood leader, you can deliver information on issues and campaigns to registered Democrats in your area and encourage them to vote.  

The local GOP (yes, Multnomah County has one) is also in the GOTV game: their website has an action center with a volunteer form, including options to canvass door-to-door, host an event, become a social media ambassador, fundraise, reach out to your network, make phone calls for the party, or write for their blog.  

Send Letters to Voters 

Despite ongoing drama at the U.S. Postal Service, snail mail is having a moment in the spotlight. Help GOTV from your kitchen table by writing letters to voters around the country, particularly in key swing states, including North Carolina, Florida and  Pennsylvania. 

Vesna Jovanovic, a physician living in Portland who was one of Portland Monthly’s featured Oregon Women this year, works with hundreds of other female physicians around the country to get out the vote in various ways. Through Vote Forward—a national nonprofit, bipartisan organization empowered by grassroots volunteers—she’s been promoting The Big Send, which is set for October 17 

The Big Send involves mailing letters to voters in 12 key states to help increase voter participation. “Our group of 263 women in just August alone did 12,385 letters,” Jovanovic says. 

Vote Forward provides templated letters that you can print out, so all you have to do is write a short note about why voting matters to you, sign the letter, put it in an envelope, and mail it out on the designated date. 

“The thing to stress is that it’s all evidence-based. People get annoyed by getting contacted 20 times, but the letters you’re doing have been vetted and are going to people that have likely not voted before and will vote. They’re going to specific districts that can flip,” Jovanovic says. 

Get Involved Through Social Media 

Increasing voter turnout within your network is easier than ever thanks to social media. You can use your social platforms to remind your friends and family of important registration and mail-in deadlines. You can also share helpful information about the policies each candidate supports, upcoming presidential debates, and other election news.  

If you have friends and family you don’t politically agree with and you’re afraid to upset them, you can encourage voter participation by presenting information in a nonpartisan way. Increasing voter turnout across the board benefits our democracy, even if some of those voters don’t end up voting for your preferred candidate. 

“You can combat your fear and your worry by getting out the vote,” Jovanovic says. What we know works is that we spread our positivity and our optimism everywhere we go. When someone is saying ‘I’m so scared’ You say, ‘Don’t be scared. Get out the vote!’” 

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