My Experience with Grassroots Efforts

  • The support of grassroots groups in the successful 2017 Virginia legislative campaign may provide some lessons for the upcoming November 2018 state- and federal-level elections in other states.
  • I have been a member of We of Action (WofA), a grassroots group based in Arlington VA that prioritizes action on progressive concerns.
  • I have found hope, intellectual challenge, connections with people of diverse views, and new friendships from my activism and focus on state politics.
  • WofA’s operations have been inclusive, used a variety of social media, and focused on progressive values rather than political party affiliation. WofA members supported political campaigns including selected swing districts beyond Arlington.
  • State government elections are important — support for state legislative races enables simultaneous support for up-ticket races (e.g., state-wide state government and US federal legislature offices). A different composition of state politicians in the future can also help combat gerrymandering. Focus within a state legislature district also enables more intensive communication between candidates and potential voters.
  • Pre-primary activity can include voter registration and canvassing on political views and orientation, while subsequent activities can include canvassing, phone-banking, and postcards for specific progressive candidates.
  • Final Get-Out-the Vote and election-day activities are important.
  • Networking with other grassroots groups help minimize duplication and make best use of the strengths of various groups, but a tolerance of a degree of chaos is still required.
  • Running progressive candidates in as many districts as possible is important to overall success, even when those candidates lost the election.
  • Fundraising is important, but volunteer support is even more crucial.
  • There are good generic resources available to support for volunteers with training, knowledge and skills, and grassroots groups can develop additional support for specific campaigns.
  • Success has generated enthusiasm for additional activism during 2018.
  • Getting to know grassroots groups based within the swing districts
  • Encouraging people to run as candidates in as many races as possible;
  • Gathering and sharing information on primary candidates
  • Canvassing for information on political orientation and views (but not for specific candidates).
  • Expanding voter registration, especially among communities with historically low voter participation. After trying to reach out directly to these diverse communities, we ultimately found that we could be more effective by collaborating with other groups which already had effective ties and outreach programs, e.g. New Virginia Majority, CASA, NAACP, League of Women Voters, Next Gen, churches, unions, etc. A recent article discussing the importance of expanding the voter base is in https://www.thenation.com/article/democrats-dont-need-trump-supporters-to-win-elections/
  • to register new residents and others not already registered;
  • to explain local specifics of early absentee voting procedures;
  • to have bookmarked state voter registration websites on their cell phones; and
  • to facilitate follow-up by candidates or their staff with selected voters on special issues of concern.
  • Campaign websites should have links to websites on voter registration, absentee voting, and like-minded up- and down-ticket candidates.
  • Open-ended questions on what issues voters cared about proved helpful, not only for early “persuasion” canvassing, but also for undecided voters in final GOTV canvassing.
  • Sunday afternoons were a particularly desirable time to canvas since more people were home than on Saturdays, yet there was still daylight.

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Jessica Mott

Jessica Mott

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