After reading mediaprof's request for advice for a first-time phonebanker, I've decided to share a bit about my own first experience phonebanking, which happened just a few hours ago, along with some information about Vote Today Ohio and some questions about taking further steps to help the GOTV effort.
PART I: Losing My Phonebanking Virginity to Vote Today Ohio
I'm from Westchester County, NY and I attended a phonebank with about 10 others to make calls to educate voters about Vote Today Ohio, a PAC with a highly-motivated grassroots effort to encourage early voting in Ohio and provide free transport to early voting sites for those in low-income areas and colleges in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
VTO is run by Amy Little, who was the campaign manager for Democratic Congressman (and former member of pop group Orleans, of "Still the One" fame) John Hall (NY-19, a district that went 53-45 for Bush in '04). In '06, the underdog Hall knocked off six-time Republican incumbent Sue Kelly in a tight race, thanks in large part to an outstanding effort by a campaign staff of 1,200 volunteers. Urban Ohio might be a different terrain than NY-19, but Little knows a thing or two about motivating volunteers and voters and her help in Ohio is only going to give the Democratic GOTV operation a boost.
I dialed 62 numbers, and about half went to disconnected numbers--yet another sorry indication of America's struggles. I left 12 voicemail messages and spoke to 12 others. I was able to reserve a spot on a free early-voting shuttle van for a young man, and one woman said she'd vote on Nov. 4, but wanted to pass along the information to an elderly couple she knew that may have difficulty traveling to and from their voting site.
I expected to be a bit anxious and have a low success rate today (even though our calls were going to likely Obama voters), so I was still somewhat satisfied with my results. Being able to connect with two voters that may not have been aware of early voting (and for all we know, may not have voted or been turned away from the polls on Election Day due to strict identification requirements) made my day worthwhile and easily outweighed all of the failed attempts and "We're sorry, but the number you have dialed is temporarily out of service" messages.
Several Ohioans expressed distrust with early voting and genuine fear that their votes would not count, be lost, or be stolen by the Republicans. We want to encourage early voting because it's easier and will help defeat voter suppression and elect Obama, so we still have plenty of work to do educating voters and calming fears that were stoked by Republican tactics. Just getting the word out about early voting is important, and I hope those I spoke to or left messages with will come around to early voting or tell others about it.
Together, we made 427 calls, left 61 messages, spoke to 72 voters and got several to reserve places on the free voting shuttle vans. One Ohioan promised one of my fellow volunteers to bring as many friends as she could to the shuttle with her--that was wonderful to hear.
This was my first effort in any GOTV or Obama-related campaign activity (in this case, unofficial), and I enjoyed not just being able to help but the atmosphere among the small group--the same positive feelings that have been felt by millions across the country. I don't have a car and took the train nearby, but others were kind enough to give me a ride from the local train station to the phonebank and also a ride back home (thanks!).
PART II: Becoming Phonebankingly Active and Practicing Safe Phonebanking
I don't have time to travel and canvass in a battleground state, so I'd like to continue to phonebank (either at other similar events or at home) through Election Day. The fellow who ran the phonebank has done and will do several others, and he said the Vote Today Ohio caller lists were better than those he got from the Obama campaign. He added that many voters in battleground states have been getting as many as 10 calls a day, and I worry that this may irritate people and, in some cases, hurt our GOTV effort.
I've been poking around my.barackobama.com to get an idea of their phonebanking resources, but after hearing about repeat calls and other mix-ups, I'm unsure about the reliability of the Obama campaign's caller lists. So, I've got a few questions:
- For those that have phonebanked via my.barackobama.com: how have your phonebanking experiences gone, and how would you rate their caller lists?
- For everyone: are there any other organizations that provide better lists?
- If I have the option available, what legitimate battleground states do you think have had less saturation with campaign calls to voters?
I'd appreciate any input on those questions in the comment section. This diary probably leans a little bit towards the, err, MySpace-ish diaries disliked by several here, but the main intent here to let Kossacks know about Vote Today Ohio, let you all know that despite the rosy poll numbers, we need to do more work to promote early voting as a tactic to help Obama and the Democrats and to find out more about good ways to continue phonebanking.