by Judy Seldin-Cohen
There are so many things that we cannot safely do during this pandemic––visit aging parents, hug a friend, listen to live music. What we can do is improve voter turnout.
Twelve years ago, I picked up a stack of blank voter registration forms at the local election office, bought a few clipboards and a box of pens, and camped out for several hours each week at a couple of Plaza Midwood restaurants. I registered one hundred voters that year, mostly millennials waiting to sit down for Sunday brunch.
But what about this year? I stay safer-at-home during the pandemic, admittedly a privilege of my life. Yet, I am unwilling to sit on the sidelines for the 2020 election––not only the presidential race, but also the U.S. Senate, the North Carolina General Assembly, the local housing bond referendum, and more. (See the Mecklenburg County ballot here.)
Registering voters at restaurants won’t work this year, with no one milling around the hostess stand. Knock on doors? I don’t want to knock, and the resident probably doesn’t want to answer. Phone banking? I’m not a fan, neither dialing nor answering. To investigate my alternatives, I participated in some ZOOM calls, clicked on a LinkedIN article, and researched a few websites.
Writing postcards for Reclaim Our Vote––a campaign of the nonpartisan Center for Common Ground––emerged as my favorite. What attracted me to this initiative?
- Focus. The Reclaim Our Vote(ROV) campaign focuses on North Carolina and seven other southern states with a history of voter suppression. Within each state, ROV reaches out to African-Americans and other people of color, many of whom were involuntarily removed from voter rolls this summer.
- Leadership. Both ROV and its Charlotte partner the Alliance for Moral Progressives are led by African-Americans. I willingly––eagerly––follow their direction how to best motivate people of color to vote.
- Effectiveness. ROV cites independent data and anecdotal experience demonstrating that postcards––particularly handwritten postcards––spur voter turnout.
- Pandemic safety. Postcards don’t endanger those of us who write them nor the prospective voters who receive them.
My dining room table now hosts a one-woman assembly line for packets containing everything a volunteer needs to handwrite 30 postcards––addresses, stamps, scripts, even a correction fluid pen, and of course, blank postcards. In my first few days organizing volunteers for another grassroots organization, signups totaled 900 postcards.
If you live in Mecklenburg County, sign up here. I and my Greenspon organizing partners, Karen Mello and Brent Scott, will arrange a safe, no-contact delivery to your door, including their contact info for questions.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a paid gig, join the National Vote Force of Reclaim Our Vote to work the polls. If you enjoy phone banking, volunteer to make calls. Or if you are outside our Mecklenburg County (NC) delivery zone, organize your own postcard initiative. Connect directly with Reclaim Our Vote here, or pick another organization that appeals to you.
Democracy is not a spectator sport. Get in the game with us. Sign up here.
Judy Seldin-Cohen serves as a volunteer organizer while writing her second book. Her essay about affordable housing advocacy with the Greenspon Center will be published this fall in an anthology by MuseWrite Press.