People who pay close attention to the news can quickly become overwhelmed with the current situation of the world, especially when it comes to politics. One of the great strategies for dealing with this stress is choosing a cause and dedicating time to it so you can effect change. Politically, you can get involved in a number of different ways, especially during election seasons, whether for national, state, or local candidates.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many traditional approaches to political volunteering, such as hosting fundraising parties or canvassing from door to door, are no longer feasible. However, you can still get involved in many other ways to support the candidates you want to see in office—no matter how much time you have to spare. Consider one of the following options:
1. Register voters
People cannot get their political voices heard without being registered to vote. Even though in-person voter registration has become trickier, you can still help people register to vote online. Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia all provide avenues for online voting registration, and other states allow socially distanced registration through mail-in applications.
If you want to get involved politically, you can reach out to your social circles and help people register to vote. This may require you to have conversations with friends and family about why their vote matters and why they should make their voice heard. Usually, it’s a good idea to focus on both the local and broader national reasons to vote, so the person you’re trying to convince understands that casting a ballot is important in every election. To get started with registration campaigns, seek out local groups dedicated to this cause.
2. Phone banking
One of the most traditional approaches to political volunteering is phone banking, which means calling people to discuss the issues with them and encourage them to vote for a particular candidate. Historically, phone banking involved a group of people calling from a single location, like a campaign’s headquarters, but today more people are staying home to make phone calls. These phone calls are often a major part of a candidate’s outreach. The calls allow volunteers to have direct contact with voters, which offers the biggest chance of changing their mind or convincing them to vote for the candidate. Be sure to take this responsibility seriously—only volunteer if you have a good grasp of the particular issues at hand. To participate in phone banking, reach out to a campaign you support.
3. Political conversations
Getting involved politically does not always mean volunteering with an organization or for a particular campaign. Do not discount the value of spearheading political conversations with friends and family members. The conversation can start with the simple question of whether they plan to vote and then whom they plan to endorse. These questions can be considered taboo, but bringing them up often removes some of this stigma and encourages open conversations.
The impact of voting cannot be understated—people need to understand how their vote, or their refusal to vote, could affect their life and the lives of people they love. Opening up these conversations makes it possible for you to explain your reasons for supporting a candidate or particular issue. You could end up changing the other person’s mind.
4. Voter texting
Another way to help political campaigns is by texting voters. Most campaigns will have a long list of voters they would like to reach through text messages. Sending these messages can change minds, encourage people to vote, and even start a conversation about the candidates or issues in the election. While most people associate this kind of volunteering with large, presidential campaigns, even smaller, local campaigns are starting to adopt voter texting, especially as a way to increase voter turnout.
Campaigns are generally short of people willing to do voter texting, so it is a great way to get involved with a fairly low time investment. In addition, text messages tend to be better received than phone calls, so it is a great option for communicating with voters without coming across as overbearing or intrusive. And of course, you can easily text from home.
5. Send postcards
Another option is writing letters or postcards to people in swing states. While this approach may not seem like it would be particularly effective at first, postcard outreach has actually had a major impact on past elections. For example, the 11th district in New Jersey was flipped from red to blue in 2018 after a team collectively sent 80,000 postcards to voters who had not previously turned out for midterm elections. The team behind the postcards didn’t expect much of a return on their efforts, but for every 30 cards they sent, one voter turned out. The impact was quite significant. If you’re interested in joining or creating a postcard campaign, organize through local political action groups, or contact a politician’s team to coordinate.