Liars and Cheaters and Boors, Oh My!

Request for Comments 1 : Winning the MidTerms

The challenge facing us is not about progressive vs conservative ideology. Its simply about cheaters, a form of cancer on society — a group that buys the rules instead of obeying them. We need both long and short-term solutions. We have 23 days for the short term ones.

To the non-engineers reading this: a Request for Comments is the classic way to propose a technical solution to a problem. This one is intended for those who see a critical time window ticking away, and want to take direct, maximally effective action to prevent rise of authoritarianism. Right now, that means winning the midterms for Democrats. Comments are welcome in terms of what actions are most effective. It is expected that the reader intends to take action, and not only to discuss what action others might take!

Direct Engagement With Neighbors

Personal, one on one interaction is the strongest influencer to cause other people to become engaged, to take action and to vote. Influence is strongest when the other person is in your circles. In other words, talk to your friends and neighbors.

There’s an an app for that. Seriously — you don’t really know all your neighbors, not the ones a few blocks away. Get the MiniVAN, and VoteWithMe.

When canvassing voters, the old system was for an organizer to ‘cut turf’ or to make physical walk lists for volunteers, who then take clipboards out to neighborhoods, return them, and enter the data into the system. The Minivan 7 smartphone app is a step up — instead of a map on a clipboard, the volunteer enters a list ID into the app and marks responses as they go. However, it is still a top-down system, requiring an organizer and a list assignment.

Indivisible has taken it one step further, and is able to provide special list numbers that automatically geolocate. Wherever you are, put in the Indivisible code and find the voters immediately around you who need to be contacted. This method has two major advantages: 1) zero overhead: it is possible to walk effectively in a 20 minute window; and 2) immediate connection: people are much more engaged when you can say, “hi, I live right over there on the next block” as the introduction. It is also conducive to house parties for postcarding or even phone banking, but more on that later.

The only disadvantage, is that the Indivisible codes are powerful enough that they can’t just publicly distribute them. So not enough people know about this, or have access to the codes. You have to ask for them from your local Indivisible rep, or ask me. Then get out and walk.

The VoteWithMe app is simpler, and immediate to use. It examines your contacts (with your permission) and shows you which of your own friends live in a swing district and may need a reminder call. Small, but very effective.

Donating $

This is an obvious one. What might not be obvious is to look for lists of smaller races across the country that can swing local power balances. In particular Attorney Generals have the power to enforce campaign finance rules. Focusing on local races enabled tremendous gerrymandering by those trying to rig the system; we have to win local races to unrig it.

Here is a list of twenty powerful local races that can be donated to all at once.

Tech Help for Campaigns

Lots of folks have ideas for fixing the system, and a number of them may be promising long term. Right now we’re not in the design phase. Just go here:

Ragtag.org

I’ve looked around and these guys are the most organized. They have serious project managers who chop up tasks that are critical to campaigns into bite size pieces you can do in one or two hours. They also are the creators of #PostcardsToVoters, an effective and efficient way sending personal messages from voter to voter. Personal, one to one communication, has been shown to statistically increase turnout. Which brings us to…

Postcard or Phonebank

Again it comes down to personal contacts. Postcarding is low tech, but effective exactly because of the individual effort it takes. It’s also fun to do with kids. Give your kids a memory of what they did in 2018, that they can tell to their grandkids. https://postcardstovoters.org/

or be creative with it:

Those neighborhood contacts you made? Invite them to a wine, cheese and postcards party.

Phonebanking can be done remotely in swing districts, such as North Dakota

Heidi Heitkamp took a risk voting No on Kavanaugh, and faces a tough Senate race. Phonebanking is a direct way to assist.

Follow the Money, Find a Platform, and Speak Out

Dark money is pouring in to negative advertising against many candidates. Pointing out where the funding is coming from, or otherwise supporting the candidates being attacked in a public way, can be effective.

Writing for Civic Engagement is a whole other topic — but also worth pursuing. That article discusses how to come up with a hook, and where to place it. Letters to the editor, while old-fashioned, are perhaps the most effective.

Election Integrity

Critical — and a key part of educating yourself about what is going on. If you live in a state with electronic voting machines, please read Jenny Cohn’s pinned tweet about how to protect yourself and advocate for accountability.

Educate Yourself

This is only effective if you are also communicating with others in some form! But it certainly has value to deeply understand the issues both locally and globally. I recommend reading and following Elizabeth Warren on reforming the system, Jane Mayer on Dark Money, Jennifer Cohn on Election Integrity, and local human rights fighters all over the world like the Boroumand Center who highlight victims that authoritarians are trying to quietly extinguish. I just got Democracy in Chains and hear it has a fascinating story to tell. My own friend and partner George Polisner writes compellingly about the Lewis Powell memo and the need to oppose it. And of course research your local candidates and propositions so you can speak intelligently about them!


Thats all I got — the most effective things I know right now — and they don’t seem enough, unless many people are doing them. Practical, immediately applicable comments welcome, and would also love to hear what folks out there are doing on the ground. If there is a high-tech approach I don’t know about, that is more effective than what is detailed here, please share! And email me if you want the Indivisible codes for your state.

Long term, systemic change is also called for: building cooperative exchanges, liquid democracy, ranked choice voting, strengthening local connections, first hand verified human rights reporting, self-sovereign identity, adjusting corporate charters (Accountable Capitalism Act), and other innovative approaches will likely be part of any successful long-term solution.

But with 23 days left before a major tipping point, short term approaches are in order. Now if you pardon me, I’m going to go send some postcards.

Open Source Public Policy

Open Source Public Policy

Golda Velez

Written by

Mom, Software Engineer, Tucsonan. Like connection, community, fun and algorithms for increasing opportunity. Also for identifying bullshit. @gvelez17

Open Source Public Policy

Open Source Public Policy