Pizza, snacks, & pop: Organizing for ’18 won’t stop
By Bobby Brady-Sharp, OFA Field Director
There are now less than 50 days to go until the pivotal midterm elections, and OFA volunteers are wasting no time in laying the groundwork for a successful GOTV (Get Out The Vote) push in November.
In just the last few weeks, dozens of OFA chapters — from Tampa to Houston to Las Vegas to Los Angeles — have kicked things into high gear by bringing their families, friends, and neighbors together for #OrganizingFor18 House Parties.
“It was one HOT weekend” out in Palatine, Illinois, according to the the North West Suburbs chapter, who talked to more than 150 of their neighbors at a local street fest and convinced them all to commit to voting this November. Out west in Fremont and Antelope Valley, California, volunteers joined together together to formalize their organizing plans for the next 10 weeks, including when and where they’ll canvass door-to-door to get their neighbors ready to vote.
Back in the Midwest near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Paul’s Lindsey Heights neighborhood team resolved to getting at least 10 of their friends registered and committed to voting this November.
Outside Philadelphia near Pennsylvania’s sixth district, veteran OFA organizer Angie worked alongside partner groups to help canvass for local candidates that will actually represent the concerns of their constituents. In Cleveland, Ohio, Emily organized a house party where her and her guests discussed ways they to get out the vote in their local community and then wrote postcards for local candidates.
In Fort Collins, Colorado, Suzanne convened a successful house party where guests decided on weekly actions from now through November, and really enjoyed get to know one another over food, wine, and organizing work. In Sierra Vista, Arizona, volunteers got to work using OFA’s Friend Mapping guide to identify which friends and family in their network to prioritize reaching out to before the election and to get them to turnout this year.
Why it matters.
You might have heard: November 2018 is a turning point for our democracy. We’re not just fighting for progress on issues like climate change, health care, and gun violence — we’re fighting for accountability, fairness, respect, and for what often feels like the soul of our country. With the stakes this high, we can’t leave any votes on the table this year.
We know that turnout in midterm elections is historically low (it was nearly 30% in 2014 😬) and, in the past year, we’ve seen races all over the country being decided by the slimmest of margins. That means that the people in our networks who don’t usually vote can make a big difference this year.
So what’s the game plan?
We’re focused on expanding the electorate. But we’re not just leaning on anyone and everyone we know. We’re going to be strategic about prioritizing the right people in the right places — those who we know can have the most impact.
OK, but how?
In addition to getting out in the community and working with local campaigns, another highly effective approach we’re using is called relational organizing. The theory is simple: If organizing is all about building relationships (and it is), then reaching out to someone you already know — who trusts you — can be a much more effective organizing tactic than having a conversation with a stranger. This isn’t new, but we know that it works.
The goal isn’t to persuade people who will never agree with you, nor is it to focus solely on your friends who you know will vote. This is about convincing the people who share our values, but for one reason or another, don’t always end up voting. And we all know people who don’t — maybe because they don’t even realize there’s an election, or maybe they think their votes don’t matter.
The catch is: They do matter. And that’s why OFA volunteers are working to get their friends, family members, and neighbors to Turnout for ’18 — a program dedicated to turning every ally into a voter.
Where do I start?
This is the best question! There are a few ways you can get started. First, make sure you’re registered to vote and committed to voting this November. Know when your early voting period begins, where your polling location is, how you’ll get there, and who you’re going to bring along with you.
Next, join OFA’s Turnout for ’18 program so you can identify those friends, family members, and neighbors to prioritize and help get them to commit to voting this year, too.
Then, like other OFA groups and volunteers around the country, host an Organizing for ’18 House Party in your community. These get-togethers don’t have to be anything formal or complicated — you can even make it into a potluck, a pizza party, or a tailgate.
Why House Parties?
Because organizing starts with you and the people you know. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together (as the saying goes). OFA volunteers have their sights set on going far, but we need to start right now and we need to do this together.
These aren’t just opportunities to mingle and get to know your neighbors (although they are that too) — they’re a chance to bring communities closer together, a chance to talk about how to get more involved with local campaigns, and a chance to give the folks in your community a way to channel their energy and passion into meaningful action (see the Friend Mapping Activity).
It’s not too late to get started. In fact, this weekend would be a perfect time to have a few friends over, nosh on some pizza, and make an impact on this year’s midterms before November. And you can all do it together.
You and your friends, family, and neighbors can make a difference no matter where you live. We all know people who don’t vote regularly and almost all of us know someone who lives in or near one of OFA’s priority districts or states.
So check out these resources and don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org — if you have the passion to make a difference in 2018, then we’re here to help and support you.