UU the Vote Update August 2020: Relational Organizing and Other Ways to Get Involved

by Jamie Evanini, Faith Action Ministry

“Are you registered to vote?”
“Have you requested your vote-by-mail ballot yet?”

These are questions that every UUCWC member and friend will be hearing in the near future — and perhaps you’ve already been asked. As with the CensUUs Texting Team this past May, 30 volunteers are helping the Faith Action Ministry contact every member and friend of our congregation to remind them to register to vote and request a vote-by-mail ballot. (A huge thank-you to Michele Ruopp for coordinating this effort!)

You might not be expecting the next question they’ll ask you, though:

“We’re asking everyone to reach out to 3 friends and family about registering to vote and requesting a vote-by-mail ballot. Can we count on your help?”

As we head into the homestretch of our UU the Vote activities, we urge everyone to not only register and vote, but to take it one step further: get your own friends and family registered to vote, and ready to vote by mail. This is a strategy called relational organizing. Instead of canvassing and talking to strangers, you get out your address book or open up the contacts list on your phone, and start talking to people you already know: family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, the people in your book club, old classmates and distant cousins you haven’t spoken to in a while. You can talk in person, or contact them by phone, email or text. The point is to engage your friends and family in conversation about issues you both care about, and then you make an ask (in this case, registering to vote and/or requesting a vote-by-mail ballot). Research shows that relational organizing can be very effective — in one study, participants were 21% more likely to take action when asked by a friend than when asked by a stranger.

To further these efforts, the Faith Action Ministry recently offered a 2-part Zoom training on Relational Organizing on July 25th and August 8th. Many participants at our training shared one overarching concern: “But I don’t know anyone who is undecided about voting this November!” That’s okay! If that is your situation, then you need to make a different ask of your already-engaged friends and family. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask them to do relational organizing with their own friends and family.
  • Ask them to request their vote by-mail ballots NOW and return them as EARLY as possible! This is crucial, given how USPS is being sabotaged to suffer increased delays.
  • Ask them to reach out to their contacts in electoral college or Senate swing states about checking voter registration and requesting a vote-by-mail ballot. Here’s a list of key states to get you started: AL, AZ, CO, FL, GA, IA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, TX, WI
  • Ask them to reach out to their contacts who are newly eligible voters (18-23 year olds), OR to friends who are parents of 18-23 yr olds. Get new voters to fill out Rock the Vote’s “Get 3 Friends to Vote Pledge”.
  • If they are young and in a low-risk category, ask them to consider being a poll worker this November. So many long-time poll workers are elderly and high risk for COVID-19, so states are having serious problems finding an adequate number of poll workers for Election Day. In PA, you can get more information and sign up to be a poll worker here. In NJ, Mercer County residents can sign up here; Hunterdon County residents here. For people in other states, refer them to www.powerthepolls.org or www.pollhero.org to learn more and/or sign up to be a poll worker.

You can learn more about relational organizing at the Organizing Empowerment Project, and find some example conversations about voting by mail here.

Other ways to get involved in the coming weeks

In addition to relational organizing, there are a number of other ways you can help UU the Vote in the next two-and-a-half months:

FAM Zoom Gatherings & Letter/Postcard Writing: The Faith Action Ministry is offering a series of Zoom gatherings every second and fourth Saturday in August, September and October, 10 – 11:30am. The next event is a Letter-or Postcard Writing Party on Saturday, August 22. Contact fam@uucwc.org to get set up before the gathering with supplies for Vote Forward letters or Reclaim Our Vote postcards. We need to do about 2,500 more to get to our goal of 10,000 postcards and letters to voters by November.

Reclaim Our Vote Text- and Phone-banking: The organization we’ve been writing postcards for is now doing textbanking and phonebanking, which you can sign up to do at your convenience. For more info and to get set up, contact Catherine Hunt, Reclaim Our Vote’s New Jersey Coordinator, at rov.newjersey@gmail.com.

UU the Vote National Days of Action: The national UU the Vote organization is launching a series of nationwide Days of Action. The first is a national Call-In Day to voters in Wisconsin and Florida on Wednesday, August 25th. Learn more and sign up here.

UUs for Social Justice Weekly Phonebanking: UUSJ is holding a weekly Thursday evening phonebank to voters in North Carolina. Get more info here and here.

More opportunities are popping up by the day! Make sure you hear about them by signing up for UUCWC’s Faith in Action email list. Contact fam@uucwc.org to get added to the list.