For my volunteer experience I volunteered for the Vote No campaign. It was at the Dinkytown Office for a few hours one night. I took data that had been collected through phone banking and other surveys and entered them into a database. It was a fun experience where I got to meet new people and had a good time volunteering for a cause that I believe in.
I volunteered with the Melisa Franzen campaign for state senate throughout this summer and fall. Volunteering with a smaller campaign proved to be very fun and educational. The volunteer coordinators working for Franzen were incredibly organized, flexible, and helpful. I spent most of my time door knocking and phone banking. Door knocking was my favorite because it allowed for in-person conversations. I found that in a smaller race, fewer people had basic information about the candidates and their differences. I had lots of fun then just introducing Melisa Franzen and reviewing the incumbent's record.
The campaign was definitely focused grassroots, community efforts. Resources were spent on rallies and more personal interactions. I think part of this had to do with a limited budget. Though compared to other local races, this race was very expensive, in the grand scheme of political campaigns, the race for state senate in district 49 had a limited budget.
Another perk of working on a smaller campaign was definitely getting to meet the candidate! I had the pleasure of meeting Melisa Franzen over and over, at rallies, at voter drives, and while door knocking! Meeting her only excited me about the campaign more!
Throughout the crazy election I felt the vote was going to be close. With this in mind I felt I had to do my part to influence the election to the best of my ability, so I volunteered. Previous to this I had volunteered once for a political election. My 9th grade civics class required me to volunteer for a candidate, so I went door knocking. I went with my friends and met some interesting people, so for this volunteer experience I also went with my friends. We went phone banking for the Obama/Biden campaign. When we arrived they greeted us and instructed us in the proper way to talk to voters. Once we got started we were provided with snacks (always a plus) and encouragement to keep calling. Fortunately I came away from that experience meeting some interesting people with interesting opinions. Phone banking was completely different than door knocking. When calling someone they were able to give excuses to why they couldn't talk real easily, whereas I was able to strike conversation with individuals when I door knocked. Although I was helping in a positive way in both my volunteer experiences phone banking was more powerful because I was 18. Being able to talk to other voters while being able to legally vote was a better experience than door knocking because my 9th grade civics class required it. All in all I had a great experience phone banking, and I was able to influence the election in my own way.
I forgot to do my entry last week so I am doing it now. Better late than never! Anyways, I stumbled upon an interesting article post-election regarding the Republican Party. It was an analysis about what the Republican Party needs to do in order to gain power in the White House and Senate again. The article from the Washington Post, talks about 4 not so easy steps to rebuild and reconstruct the party. First it was suggested that the party starts being more positive and also think about what their platform is and run for those things, not against them. They also need to open the door to hispanic voters. Third, have a more grassroots approach like Obama did, which we also talked about in class. Last, select their candidates better. I truly believe all these actions need to be taken to improve their performance, because the Democrats have made these points their strengths to win voters.
My old high school teacher sent me this article. It discusses and analyzes the geographic differences in the U.S. and why regions vote the way they do in elections. I thought you guys would find it interesting :)
This election cycle was really exciting for me. It was the first one that I was really involved in. I was able to attend a Paul Ryan rally at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It was pretty cool to see him walk of his huge plane with his family and walk right up on stage and start talking. It gave a lot of energy to the people that were there. I was surprised at how many people were actually there. Not everyone was able to get in. I like that it was conveniently timed around the packer game and not the Vikings game. Paul Ryan is a true Wisconsinite. Nothing gets in the way of the game and he was coincidently in green bay right before he left for Minneapolis. In addition to the rally I was able to volunteer for their campaign. I went with a few others in the College Republicans club to go to phone bank on their behalf. I had never done that before so I was a little nervous but my friend and I went together and it was a good time. They had candy and snacks as well as dinner for us which was really nice. In addition to phone banking at the presidential level there was phone banking on behalf of Chip Cravaack who was running for congress. He was actually there talking to the volunteers and eating dinner with us which was pretty cool. I like volunteering is was a new experience that I enjoyed. I will most likely be continuing it in the future. I like knowing that I took matters into my own hands and was involved and tried to make a difference.
Over the past few weeks I put several hours volunteering at Take Action MN. This was the group that led the Vote No on Voter ID Amendment. I spent most of my time there calling voters that were targeted as people who vote often, and that were probably persuadable. This means that we were not calling strong democrats or strong republicans who probably have made up their mind on this issue. This was the first time that I was not calling for a specific candidate; I have made thousands of calls in the 2008, 2010, and the primary elections in 2012 for local DFL candidates, as well as for President Obama, and Senator Franken. It is a different experience calling for an amendment rather than a candidate, when calling for a candidate I usually talked about the candidate's story or why I personally support them. But, with the amendment there is no face for the information I give the voters, it is easy for someone to have a positive or negative image of a candidate but it is almost impossible for someone to have a positive or negative image of an amendment. Also, the issue is much more straightforward with the amendment. When calling for a candidate I get a lot of questions about what those candidates' views are on a particular issue, most frequently it was abortion, gay marriage, or gun laws. With the voter ID amendment calling I did not have to deal with that sort of thing, which was nice because I usually had a productive discussion about Voter ID with the person I was talking to. The biggest difference with my calling at Take Action was the Predictive Dialer. This may be the greatest invention ever! It weeds out not homes, disconnected numbers, answering machines etc. so I only talk to people who are on the lists. It makes it easier to talk to a lot more people in a sort amount of time.
The message at Take Action MN we were trying to give to voters on the phone was simple, that the amendment was poorly written and too costly. This resonated with a lot of people, and our calling worked. We cast a wide net with the script and convinced enough people that they should vote no. I was honestly surprised that the Voter ID amendment did not pass. In April 2011, when the Republicans in the MN legislature were planning to put this amendment on the ballot, the poll had over 80 percent of Minnesotans supporting Voter ID. I am so glad that there was an organization like Take Action that convinced people, with a massive grassroots effort that Voter ID was a bad idea.
Also, I was interviewed by MPR during the weekend before the election about the get out the vote effort.
On three occasions I volunteered for the Vote No campaign here on campus. I always felt strongly about the cause and one day I was approached and asked to give some of my time to the campaign. A few days later I found myself in the exact same position as my recruiter, asking everyone and anyone if they could spend a few hours helping the campaign. The feedback was incredibly varied, some people were very enthusiastic about joining while others pretended to agree with the cause in order to avoid confrontation and then later wouldn't even accept a vote no sticker. I actually much rather enjoyed the people who were honest with me about planning to vote yes than the people who pretended to be supporters because it was refreshing to see that they felt comfortable sharing their beliefs.
On the second occasion, two of my friends and I decided to show up at the Students United office in Dinkytown unannounced to see if there was anything we could do. We got to the office right as two groups were about to go out door knocking in the Floco and Chateau apartment buildings. Door knocking was more awkward than volunteering on the bridge because people would say "come in" as if they were expecting someone else. However, it did yield better results because people were more likely to volunteer with their roommates or guests that were over. At the debrief I found out that the Chateau is primarily occupied by international students who were unable to vote. This, combined with the fact that the other members of my group didn't know how to get to Floco, made me worry that this wasn't a well planned out campaign. Despite the obstacles, we still managed to get 47 shifts covered.
The final time I volunteered was on election day, when there was over 1,000 volunteers on the campus telling people to go vote. The feedback from people was substantially more negative because they were sick of people asking them if they had already voted. There were many people walking around with "Vote Maybe?" signs protesting our large presence on campus. To lighten the mood, we played Gangman Style over our megaphone and danced with some supporters.
Compared to other times that I have volunteered, these experiences were more exhausting, even compared to sandbagging in Moorhead, because I knew many of the people I talked to were annoyed. However, these experiences have made me feel like grassroots efforts have the potential to greatly affect the results of an election. Perhaps if some of the volunteers on election day would have spread out throughout the Minneapolis area, the campaign would have had a greater influence and less of a redundant presence on the University campus.
The day after the election, one of my political science professors said that Romney lost because the "U.S. electorate just is not white enough anymore." I immediately thought of a blog entry by Nate Silver in late August, where he basically argued the same thing. The post can be found here: http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/30/base-turnout-strategy-may-be-too-narrow-for-romney/
In the article, Nate Silver uses voter turnout rates from 2004 and 2008 to support his argument that Romney's strategy to focus on turning out his base would not work. He goes on to compare Romney's likability among Hispanic voters to Bush's likability. Given Romney's history and stance on issues such as immigration, Silver predicted that he would not capture a sufficient number of Hispanic votes.
Chapter 11 of our book discusses why there is a racial distortion in voting. "It is remarkable that blacks and whites participate at virtually the same rates overall even though African Americans are typically less educated and have lower incomes than whites. Part of the explanation for black electoral activism is mobilization that occurs in black churches. Another part of the explanation is idiosyncratic to 2008: blacks were more excited than whites about Barack Obama's candidacy," (Campaigns & Elections 334). The book goes on to explain that voting rates among Latino and Hispanic voters are low due to lower levels of education, lower incomes, struggles with the English language, and growing up in countries that do not celebrate political participation.
So I am excited to see where the Republican Party takes things in the next few months. I am anticipating some major shifts in issue focus and a shift towards more moderate issues stances.
I volunteered for the Brian Barnes for U.S. Congress campaign as a field staff intern. I actually contacted them through their Facebook page and got in touch with the Field Director, Ted York. He's a U of M alum and started the Students for Obama chapter on campus, and an all around great guy. Their office is up in Maple Grove, which is about a 30 minute drive from campus. I was tasked with putting information they had collected from voter calls into a database online. I also did some campaign research on the opposition (Erik Paulsen) and learned how his votes aligned with Bachmann's. My favorite part of the experience would have to be meeting their campaign manager Tom. He's been the political world for over 30 years and had some incredible insight on how campaigns are run. I was pretty astonished by how money is such a central aspect to everything they do. Without donors and funding, they wouldn't be able to do even the simplest of things, such as organizing volunteers and going out to knock on doors. This really made me appreciate the time and money that grassroots supporters put in to kickstart campaigns like Brian's. He hasn't held office before and Paulsen is a tough incumbent to run against, but people "had a little faith" as it were, and offered their resources to help him get started. I had a chance to meet almost everyone working on the campaign and learn all about the different jobs. From finance to social networking to field to event coordination... there are unlimited options. It was a very fast paced environment and depended a lot on quick wit and creativity! My only other political volunteering experience was working at a polling place in 2010 to help kids "vote" while their parents were voting. This was completely different. Obviously, if you ever have the opportunity to work at a polling place: do it! It's important to maintain the integrity of that system. However, I would definitely urge you to try to intern with a campaign sometime in the future. Meeting new people who have experience in the field was something that absolutely changed my perspective on elections and the possibility of myself going into politics.