At their advent, Web 2.0 platforms were praised for their democratizing affordances. Over the years, we’ve seen the internet give voice to previously marginalized communities and those kept out by the gatekeeping of traditional media. We have connected, mobilized, celebrated, and advocated all online, particularly as more of civic life has moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is no question that digital life has changed the face of electoral politics and civic engagement. And amidst anxiety-inducing stories of campaign apps collecting voter data and microtargeted campaign ads, we wanted to highlight some of the tools and organizations working with campaigns and citizens to effectively get out the vote while prioritizing privacy and safety. From repurposing existing tools and practices to engaging new communities, or connecting people to the resources around them, each of these tools works to motivate citizens to participate in democracy, rather than intimidate them.
Tech for Campaigns takes the traditional model of campaign volunteer structures and applies it to the rapidly growing, professionalized field of digital campaigning. Designers, data analysts, developers, marketing professionals, and other experts can now volunteer their time in a way that leverages their specific skills while also allowing campaigns to produce increasingly engaging and creative content.
Black Girls Vote is committed to empowering, educating, and engaging Black women in the political process. In partnership with Power the Polls, they encourage Black women to work the polls and participate in the election process. Their Party in the Mailbox Initiative sends celebratory boxes to homes in Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia with all of the supplies they will need to vote, whether that be absentee or in person.
A by-product of the popular “Pod Save America” podcast, Vote Save America is a one-stop-shop for all things election. In collaboration with campaigns, strategists, and activists, Vote Save America rounds up events, action items, and information on GOTV efforts in each state. Voters can check their registration, get informed on the candidates as well as the political process, and sign up to volunteer at the polls or at a campaign event.
Vote Save America also hosts the “Adopt a State Program” which allows volunteers to target their efforts in one of six key swing states. Participants in the Adopt a State Program receive digital organizing training from former campaign staffers, community organizers, and other industry leaders, as well as weekly action items to aid GOTV efforts in their specific state.
For both seasoned organizers and newcomers, Mobilize is the easiest way to find campaign events looking for volunteers, and since most events have gone virtual due to the pandemic, you can volunteer in any state or race you feel needs extra support. While many equate organizing with canvassing, phone banking, or other interpersonal activities, Mobilize has events for the introverted or beginner organizer as well, including literature drops or letter-writing events.
Vote Forwards allows volunteers to send letters to underrepresented voters with pertinent information on elections around them, as well as instructions on how to vote. Each volunteer receives a digital dashboard upon registration, connecting them to underrepresented voters in key states through targeted campaigns. From there, volunteers can adopt voters, download letter templates, and track their progress. Vote Forward provides volunteers with in-depth instructions every step of the way. The only materials necessary are a blue pen, envelopes, and some stamps.
TurboVote focuses on combating misinformation around voting and election procedures while prioritizing data privacy and safety. From facilitating voter registration to tracking absentee voting laws in every state and sending text reminders to voters, TurboVote seeks to increase voter turnout by simplifying the voting process.
The shift towards digital politicking has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but these organizations show us the positive change that can occur when digital tools meet motivated and engaged citizens, connecting them despite the distance.