One Vote Per Precinct

By Morris Seeskin

In 2008 my wife and I, both lawyers in Oak Park, IL, signed up with the Obama campaign to assist with voter protection. We were assigned to a highly Democratic precinct in Gary, IN (Lake County). At the precinct, poll workers checked in voters using hard poll books with voter registration materials but the original poll books were kept at the county building.  The books used at the polling location were compiled before the registration period ended and consequently, meant the precinct books contained incomplete and/or possibly incorrect information. This affected anyone who registered after the precinct books were created, voters who had recently moved and properly reported the move, and those who had changed their name and timely reregistered.  If an apparent problem turned up at the precinct, poll workers were instructed to call the central office to verify eligibility based on the more complete original records.

By the time the polling place opened, a line had already formed. The line fluctuated throughout the day as people came and went. It was never under an hour wait until sometime after the nominal closing time. As a result, the poll workers were busy all day. The central office hot line was overwhelmed so incoming calls almost always got a busy signal. Poll workers didn’t have the “luxury” of repeatedly dialing the central office as the line began to move more and more slowly. Left to their own devices, the workers offered the voters provisional ballots. Unfortunately, provisional ballots are not even looked at unless the voter physically goes to the central office to establish their right to vote.

My wife and I decided to take on the task of calling the central office over and over again, as many as 20-25 times for a single voter. Once connected, we handed the phone to a poll worker. By the end of the day, approximately seven people got real ballots instead of provisional ballots because of our work. We left believing our efforts had accomplished little… until the next day. The election results estimated Barack Obama won Indiana by ONE VOTE PER PRECINCT.

Never underestimate your power to make a difference, no matter how incremental and tedious it may seem.

The Art of Retail Politics

By Michael Harris

Congratulations, you’re a Precinct Committeeperson! Like many of us, you got fired up after the election, found your Legislative District and said “sign me up!” You just had to DO something!

PCs are the bedrock of the party. When you hear about the “ground game” of a campaign, that’s YOU. You mobilize people. You spread the word. You’re the “go-to” in your community circles. That all sounds fine, but how do you get to that point? How do reach a level where you can pick up the phone or send an email and get 100 people heading for the door?

It all comes down to building relationships. And relationships all come down to a few simple things.

When you’re first starting out as a PC, you might be tempted to ask people for things. Don’t. Let’s face it, we are all turned off when people come out of the blue and hit us up for anything, no matter how small it is. Instead, try offering things.

When you introduce yourself, tell people you are there to make sure people in your neighborhood are up to date on what’s happening in the party, and, more importantly, that you can keep the party up to date on what matters to them. You’re their voice. Offer to provide regular updates via a newsletter, coffee visits, or whatever forum works best for your area. People are hungry for information and reassurance that somebody is, in fact, doing something. Feed them!

That’s the first step. The second: keep doing it. Show up and be consistent. People trust others that do what they say. Make small promises and keep them. Do it again.

Once you’ve built a relationship and credibility, you can start asking questions. What do they think? What do they need? What are they worried about? Don’t promise to solve their problems, but let them know you’ll pass them on and find out more about options.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve built trust and rapport with people in your precinct. The next ingredient: Fun. Find something you can celebrate together and make that the theme. Host a small party or picnic. The precinct that plays together, stays together.

Building these relationships takes time. It may feel frustrating that you’re only reaching a few people at a time. But an incremental approach will pay off when the time comes. You will know who you can count on to volunteer, to donate, and to bring others. You will know what will get people to go to the ballot box and what will keep them away. You’ll know when a candidate is going to resonate or fall flat. And you’ll know you can pick up the phone and mobilize them all when the time comes.

It’s a strategic choice to build intentional relationships. But these people are in your care. You are a PC! You are the bedrock. Because you bring the people.

We the People

By Sarah Meaney

The We the People Summit was created to unite people from all levels of political involvement and areas of the state in one place for one day of learning and activism. Organizers collected panels of experts to educate the public on a multitude of topics from creating sustainable organizations to the history of social and political movements. It was to be a day of impact.

Walking into the convention center, past the line forming at the door, I could see tables covered with name tags for the nearly 1,500 people in attendance. I grabbed my lanyard and name tag and headed to the AZ Blue 2020 tent. There was the team in matching blue shirts, displaying our new PC video under the big blue tent.

Shortly after I arrived, the slow and steady stream of people began. They grabbed coffee and milled about in a dull roar of conversation. Many of the people who passed were familiar allies, but the number of new faces was what had us most excited.

I began stickering people and striking up conversations. There were people from Yuma, Lake Havasu, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, current legislators and candidates. People came from all over the state with all different backgrounds.

In between stickering, I stopped at the Progressive Voices podcast table and chatted with Scott and Cara. While there, Athena Salman talked about her experience as a first year representative.

The corridor emptied as the first sessions began. I attended a session with OFA and got some valuable tips for sustaining a group’s members and creating consistent messaging.

Back in the corridor, I continued stickering and promoting visits to the AZ Blue 2020 tent. I stopped by the Save Our Schools Arizona table to talk to fellow volunteers and was asked by Dawn, head of communications, to film a short tutorial about why I support SOSAZ and the SB1431 referendum. That was an easy ‘yes’. I changed my shirt, the SOSAZ tee folded and packed in my backpack, alongside camera equipment and lots of business cards. After the video tutorial, some people stopped me to crack jokes about the ‘uniform’ change. I changed shirts a couple more times that day.

At the next forum, I learned about 501(c)¾ organizations and the tax rules associated with each designation. Fun stuff. After learning how to avoid tax evasion charges, I attended the Leaders’ Lunch. The founding members of many groups were in attendance. The creator of ResistBot spoke, along with AZ Resist and SOSAZ members.

I skipped the afternoon sessions to rejoin the AZ Blue 2020 team back at our blue tent. We received lots of traffic. Jodi signed up six new precinct committeepersons and a number of attendees signed up for our newsletter. We had many groups interested in scheduling AZ Blue 2020 for presentations and even secured a spot on a future Zod and Drea podcast.

Before the last session was over, the AZ Blue 2020 tent was visited by Deedra Abboud, as well as CD8 Candidate, Brianna Westbrook. Ms. Westbrook recorded us live on Periscope while Tricia Sauer interviewed.

When the final session of the day ended and the last bit of traffic filtered out of the corridor, our team packed up and headed to dinner. We stopped at my favorite downtown spot, Carly’s on Roosevelt. We ate, drank and shared our experiences from the day. It really was a day of impact.