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"I hated phonebanking... until I tried it"

One of our members, Karen Adams, was reluctant to start calling voters (that’s an understatement). But recently, she summoned the nerve, clicked a Zoom link, and joined us in calling voters in Florida.


Below is her first-hand account of the experience. Read it and you just might rethink your own resistance! 


I HATED PHONE BANKING... UNTIL I TRIED IT

By Karen Adams

The introvert in me abhors the idea of calling voters. Talking to strangers, bothering them at home -- it’s double-whammy bad. Plus, if people aren’t already in the “Any Sane Person 2020” camp, could anything I say make a difference? Nevertheless, this election is not one to sit out. Simply voting isn’t enough. Neither is donating money. If you’ve read this far, I probably needn’t outline why. So, with immense reluctance, I decided to join a phone bank team. On Saturday morning, I clicked a Zoom link to get trained and start making calls. I’m here today to tell you the experience was... not terrible. In fact, I’ll do it again.  Part of my reluctance, I realize, was not knowing how the process would work. So, in hopes of recruiting others to the cause, here’s a rundown of the morning’s activities.  10am: I sat down at my laptop in my dining room with my coffee and fully-charged phone. I clicked onto a Zoom call co-sponsored by Indivisible Yolo and Sister District CA-3, two local groups that I know and respect. The faces of about 15 people popped onto my Zoom screen. A volunteer named Kelly welcomed us and gave a broad overview of how this two-hour event would unfold. After her remarks and while still on Zoom (but muted), we’d each make calls for about an hour, reconvene briefly after an hour, then repeat the process from 11 a.m. to noon.  “Our aim is to make this work really well for everyone and have everyone enjoy it,” Kelly told us. Fun? Yes, calling as part of a Zoom gathering heightens the fun factor, someone said, adding that the shared stories are inspiring and produce a feel-good effect. Plausible, I thought. 10:10am: The three other newbies and I were ushered into a Zoom breakout room for training. Our leaders, Rebekka and Katherine, first tried to allay any fears we had about calling voters.  For one thing, we’d be phoning people identified as probable Biden supporters. The easiest kind of political phone-banking, these calls are valuable because the Biden-Harris organization needs an up-to-date count of confirmed supporters to guide campaign decision-making. All calls are good calls, even if they just serve to eliminate deceased voters or disconnected numbers from the list. Our second objective would be to recruit more volunteers. “We’re doing this to get a team for Biden,” Katherine said. “Anything we can do to move the ball forward is important. So don’t worry about taking people’s time. You’re doing the work of democracy.” 10:15am: I was instructed to open a new browser window, go to joebiden.com/make-calls-for-joe/, and register as a volunteer. Upon entering the site, I was invited to give money. No surprise here, and you can’t blame them for asking.  Next, I was directed to another website, this one a voter database used by Democratic campaigns across the nation. I had to register on it, too. And then I got my first view of a voter’s profile: name, age, gender (if identified), and phone number. 10:20am: Before we began making calls, Rebekka led us step-by-step through the process. Each voter profile in the database has a built-in script and key questions to ask. Of course, any number of things can happen after initiating a call. Rebekka covered the main possibilities as we worked our way down the script. Along the way, we passed pull-down menus to answer the questions. And that’s it.  Was I ready to start calling? No. Rebekka asked if we’d like to watch her make a few calls herself before we go it alone. It’s as though she read my mind. Her first “live” voter readily answered the question about support for Biden. They had a nice chat, and the voter said she’s actually already a volunteer for his campaign.  On to a few more demo calls. One woman told Rebekka brusquely that she was too busy to talk and hung up. But as they say, every call is a good call because it elicits information. Biden’s team needn’t spend more time pursuing a vote from that woman. 11:05am: We all gathered back in the main Zoom room to tell tales. A caller named Gail recounted reaching someone who said she was definitely voting for Biden “because Biden was vice president and Trump is not human.” As we laughed, Gail said she told the voter that she’d perfectly summarized the situation. It felt good to be with like-minded individuals. Others told similar positive stories. 11:15am: The moment had come. Like a baby bird nudged from the nest, I must begin making calls. The first call went to voicemail. I momentarily panicked, as the campaign does not provide a voicemail script. But Kelly, our Zoom-call leader, had written one for us in the Zoom chat space. I found it and read it aloud, leaving it visible on my screen for future use. I made a few more phone calls before someone answered. (Currently, the pick-up rate is about 18 percent, I’ve been told.) A 57-year-old woman in Jacksonville answered with a pleasant voice. Yes, she told me, she will vote for Biden. We talked a little about why she supports him, then I asked the second critical question: Would she like to volunteer for him? Maybe, she said; what would I do?  I described a few options, all detailed in Joe Biden's Action Center. “I believe I could do some texting,” she said. I recorded that information in the voter database, but also urged her to go directly to the Action Center and click on “Text for Biden.” Why wait? We ended the call cordially. Before I could pat myself on the back, I was on to the next voter profile, and the next. 

The second person I reached said he would vote for Biden but didn’t have time to volunteer. In response to the final question I asked -- what was the main reason he supported the ticket? -- he said: “Because Trump makes my skin crawl. I can barely listen to him talk.” Soon enough, our calling time was up. In all, I placed 15 calls and spoke to two individuals. 11:50am: We reconvened for a final debriefing.  The earlier assertions proved true: It was inspiring hearing others’ accounts of the positive responses we had received.  And it was fun to share my own story, of securing the Jacksonville woman’s pledge to text callers for Biden. Finally, as directed, I filled out a tally sheet on a Google doc for the two local organizations sponsoring the event.  On the sheet, my two actual conversations didn’t look like much, but (insert cliche here about small things adding up). I just know this: I want to be able to look at my grandkids someday and tell them -- and I don’t think this is hyperbole -- that our democratic system teetered on the brink of collapse in 2020. But we fought back and won.  Onward.

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