Actions you can take to help win the 2020 election
Lately, I’ve found myself doom scrolling on the homepages of the New York Times and The Atlantic too many times a day. I’m trying to stay focused on what I can actually do to make an impact, but it’s hard.
The election is four Tuesdays from now. The current administration aims to create confusion, suppress voters’ rights, and intimidate their non-supporters. There is a considerable chance that the president will refuse to concede, especially if mail-in ballots tip the scales to a Biden victory.
The best case right now is not Joe Biden winning — it’s Joe Biden winning in a landslide. If there is no question, the whole thing will be over much sooner.
There are several strategies we can take to encourage the best possible outcome. Below is a list of suggestions and resources that I’ve found in case you, like me, are struggling to find ways to help.
If we all do a little bit it will add up to a lot.
1. Register to vote and double-check that you are registered
- Register at vote.gov.
- Confirm your registration status at usa.gov.
- A list for voter registration deadlines is here on vote.gov.
2. Decide now how you’re going to vote this year
You have three choices:
- Vote in person on election day
- Vote in-person early
- Order an absentee ballot
Decide now and check the information you need to do so.
If (1) or (2), find your polling location at vote.org so you know where to go to vote in person. Your early voting location may be different than your polling location on election day! Take note of this.
If (2), check your state’s available dates for early voting and put them in your calendar now. You can find those dates at the US Vote Foundation.
If (3), you can request your absentee ballot before the deadline.
Set reminders for yourself of your state deadlines, early voting calendar, or the date to mail your absentee ballot by so you don’t have any regrets. Put important dates on your calendar before you forget.
Top tip: When you look up your polling place information, also take note of your Election district/Assembly district beforehand to save yourself time in line.
If you or anyone you know run into problems of any kind trying to vote, call 866-OUR-VOTE to speak with someone who can help.
3. Make sure your absentee ballot counts
If you are filling out an absentee ballot, be aware of the mistakes that can disqualify your ballot.
21% of ballots were rejected in New York in the Spring 2020 Primary due to simple errors like forgetting a signature on the envelope. Stay informed.
4. Talk about voting
Once you decide how you’re going to vote, just talk about it. Once you’ve voted, let people know.
Call your family and ask them if they know what their voting plan is. Mention it in person and on the phone with people you’re talking to anyway. Mention it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
A simple reminder will push lots of others to act. Your support matters a lot and you are helping people vote whether you know it or not.
5. Send money
If you can support key candidates with some cold hard cash, then do so.
Some funds like the Swing Left are focused on flipping the senate blue again and holding the current house majority.
I am a fan of funds that support Democrats in state legislature races. That’s where a lot of the shenanigans go down when voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the right to choose are attacked. It is a better venue to pursue opportunities for law enforcement reform and overall, it’s the place where you can make the greatest impact on people’s quality of life.
State House and State Senate races are also usually where Democratic candidates have almost zero money and resources. State candidates’ campaigns are typically bootstrapped by very small teams while federal races get more money and attention. Donating to small races makes me feel good.
That’s why I’m a fan of Sister District and Tech for Campaigns who are focused exclusively on supporting Democrats in key state legislature races. You might also look into Emily’s List for supporting pro-choice candidates, the Sunrise Movement for candidates for climate progress, Voto Latino for supporting the Latinx community, and Black Futures Lab’s Black to the Ballot Initiative.
In addition to getting folks elected within the current system, there are moves to eliminate the outdated electoral college and change the presidential vote to a nationwide popular vote. (Five presidents in our history became president by the electoral college while losing the popular vote.) Look into the organization National Popular Vote for more information here.
And of course, Earth Justice, the ACLU, NAACP, Southern Poverty Law Center and Planned Parenthood are organizations worth supporting at any time, not just in an election year. If you don’t want to give to political candidates, then consider giving to a good cause.
If you have enough $$ to tip your barista then consider making small-dollar donations to targeted campaigns and causes. Those organizations do the work of sending your money where it will have the greatest strategic impact.
If we all give a little, it adds up to a lot. Your money matters.
6. Make a few calls or send some text messages
Phone banking is not that scary, I promise. Most of the time it’s about contacting already registered Democrats to make sure that they’re voting and that they know where their polling location is. Sometimes it’s about calling Independent voters and changing hearts and minds, but before you join a phone bank event you will already know which type of event you signed up for.
Systems are set up now so that you never use your personal phone number to make any calls or send messages, you’re simply using an online platform that handles all that for you. Sometimes people are really nice when you call and you get to make a connection with someone you weren’t expecting.
New research suggests that swing voters don’t exist the way we think they do. The swing voter idea assumes that most people can vote, do. The new theory is that what really matters is people making the effort to get out and vote at all. In 2016, only 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast their ballots. By participation, Mexico is a more active democracy than the United States with 65% of the eligible population voting.
If every registered Democrat voted, Democrats would win in a landslide every time. This is the meaning and importance of Get Out the Vote.
You’d be amazed when you send out calls and text messages by how many people are confused about where their polling place is, or they don’t know how to ask for help in getting to the polls. These are really simple issues that prevent people from voting and this light touch can be what helps them have their vote count.
Mobilize.us runs a list of volunteer events across many democratic organizations. You can use that site to search for the type of event you want to join (postcard writing, phone banking, texting, etc.) and all of these organizations will train you when you join (remotely, of course) so you can confidently participate.
8. Sign up as an election day poll worker
You know when you go to vote and there’s always a nice person who’s there sitting at a desk telling you which direction to go in?
Due to Covid-19, there is a severe shortage of poll workers this year. This is usually staffed by retirees, but more people over 50 are declining to volunteer this year.
Ask your employer if you can get election day off to be a poll worker. Next steps to becoming a poll worker can be found here. Sign up sooner than later since you will need to attend a training session one day or evening beforehand.
If you want to read about the current shortage in pollworkers, this article has a bit more background.
9. Get connected with your local community
Sadly, we are not going to be out of this mess when Joe Biden is elected.
If anything, the last four years exposed the sorry state that our country is in. We have so much work to do.
If you are interested in getting involved in a longer-term capacity, consider connecting with humans nearby to see what others are doing. Connecting with a local group will make activism more tangible and meaningful, and will provide the motivation for you to stay engaged.
You may also consider researching local Mutual Aid groups near you to help fulfill requests for food and assistance in your local neighborhood. Lots of people are at high risk from Covid-19 and still need help with things like chores, groceries and childcare. Sign up to help organize and respond to requests.
If you are in the New York area, I also recommend volunteering with the nonprofit In It Together NYC which connects you with volunteer shifts at local food banks and helps you join the movement to expand food access across the city. (Like poll workers, food banks and soup kitchens are another volunteer area that is feeling a vacuum where the over 50’s used to be more active until Covid.)
These times are super scary but we can get through this.
Sometimes it takes emotional energy to psych yourself up to volunteer. It’s never as hard as it feels, but when everyone is emotionally burnt out this can be challenging. Clear that time for yourself in a healthy way.
I find these activities take a lot of emotional effort to schedule for myself, but then once I get involved they restore my energy to a higher level than what I had before.
Thank you for reading this, and for helping. Look at A Citizen’s Guide to Defending Democracy for even more ideas and information on how to get involved.
If you’re interested, here is some extra reading that has influenced my thinking this year:
- Can Biden’s Center Hold? The New Yorker’s summary of Joe Biden’s life and career.
- State Legislatures are like Minor League baseball on why it’s important to support small state legislature races
- Collapse Takes A Lifetime. America Is Just Getting Started from an author in Sri Lanka on healing their country after their Civil War