With the current state of the world, it is easy to become overwhelmed with emotion, especially anger. Election day is quickly approaching, but it is still not too late to channel your frustration into action. One effective way to do this is phonebanking.
Phonebanking came into use as a political tool when Wally Clinton developed the method for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign. Although technology has improved over time, and it is now possible to phonebank online without the use of your personal cell number, the basic method has not changed. Essentially, the goal of phonebanking is to engage a voter in conversation, and to ask them to get involved through encouraging them to vote, volunteer, or to donate money if they can.
Talking to strangers is not ideal for most. There are options to send out text messages and postcard reminders to voters. Any effort made to remind people to vote is important and valued, but phone calls are one of the most effective strategies to mobilize voters to action. It may be uncomfortable at first, but the satisfaction of doing something impactful is very worth it. Also, you run the risk of making an important connection with someone. You’ll be reminded of why voting is a privilege in the first place. You might even get to convince someone on an important issue that they might have otherwise not known about.
Keep in mind that you need not be an expert who knows every single political issue forwards and backwards, but there are materials available to brush up on your research beforehand. The most important thing is that a voter hears from a volunteer, and even better would be an actual conversation.
Organizations like NextGen America have solid systems of phonebank organizing, where they provide brief training, resources, a call list, a script, and a community of volunteers to help guide you in your efforts. I tried phonebanking for the first time through this organization, thanks to the attention garnered to it by Traci Thomas, host of The Stacks Podcast. On her bookstagram page, she recently organized a call to action (using #thestackscalling) of bookstagrammers to virtually phonebank together. Every volunteer makes their own calls, but while on a live video call with others in the group, for support and encouragement.
The idea of calling into a different place and speaking to a complete stranger is daunting, and it will feel awkward in the beginning. I was completely nervous the first time, but once I got a grip and kept in mind that I will never meet the callers in real life, each call became easier. Yes, some people did hang up (keep in mind to not take that personally), but I was able to talk with a few people in South Carolina. One woman was particularly excited to share that her daughter was all set to vote in her very first presidential election. We talked briefly, but it was uplifting to touch base with a motivated voter who had clearly instilled the importance of civic duty in her daughter.
These kinds of connections are crucial as election day draws nearer, especially because this is a very high-stakes race. While every call may not go smoothly, at the very least, a voter was able to hear from a human making an effort to do their part. A little discomfort at trying something new bears no comparison to wishing you had done more come November Third.
Resources to learn more: