Those of us who have a little time to dedicate before the election and a yen for travel can take advantage of some last-minute sales to put our bodies where they can do the most good in the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) work in this coming election. The Electoral College: Love It or Hate It, but it's the law of the land and we gotta work within its structure, which means that focusing our energy in a few places will make the difference in this and any Presidential election. I had some fun doing it in 2004, and I'm geared up to do it again this year.
I already booked my travel, but was excited to discover (via TravelZoo alert) that United just launched a sale this morning that appears to be ideally structured to make it extremely cheap (as in less than $225 round trip) for some West Coasters to get to some key swing states and make a difference.
Join me below the fold to share your GOTV and travel-planning tips, UPDATE: and now, thanks to plf515, Senate races where we can make a difference. UPDATE 2: for all you first-time canvassers, Virgin America joins the party.
First, some basic principles before you go parachuting in to Get Out The Vitriol (h/t greenfire) in some exotic land and taking time away from the locals and professionals who have been working hard there for months or years and who have to live with the consequences afterwards:
- Get trained! Talk to your local Obama office, they have regular classes on how to be most effective. Study up in advance on the key issues for the state and region you're visiting, and practice the talking points. If possible, do some calling there so you'll be prepared for how people react. If you have a particular skill or training, you may be able to be a pollwatcher or help in some other specialized way.
- Be presentable. Get yourself as neat and non-scary as you can be. Pack clothes appropriate for where you're going. It may well be (as was the case for me in AZ in 2004) that you can do something in the "back office" like crossing voters off of lists and free up the known locals to get out on the streets.
- Make arrangements. Find out where you're actually needed, and be ready to go somewhere different and do something different.
- Leverage connections. Go somewhere where people already know you and can vouch for you and feed and lodge you so you aren't drawing down the limited resources available for these things.
- Be independent. Figure out how to take care of yourself and your own needs, and plan time for recovery after each push, taking frequent breaks, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, staying . The last thing we need is for you to infect our likely voters and keep them away from the polls. Wash your hands often, use hand sanitizer on the road, stop and think every time you cough, sneeze, or sniffle, to avoid unconsciously using your hands or touching your eyes afterwards.
- Vote before you go! Don't forget to get your absentee- or advance-voting taken care of, properly signed, and otherwise totally taken care of before the last minute. National popular vote counts matter, not to mention your local issues and candidates.
What can you add to the above? My friends have been doing some Nevada trips this year, and having a blast. What really matters for someone headin' out on the road to make a difference?
UPDATE: plf515 contributed a comment linking to this early morning's diary, Senate update: Drop and give me 60! no, 61!, which identifies some destinations where GOTV in Senate races can make our next President that much more effective through a Filibuster-proof majority:
Alaska! Go see the biggest state!
Georgia! The south is going blue ...
Kentucky! Ditch Mitch!
along with a convenient tear-off quick-reference list of POTUS swing states "still in play":
New Hampshire (should be safe, but a good spot for Northeasterners)
Ohio (bolded per request of Comrade Brad in the comments)
UPDATE 2: Junkyard Dem has a diary up offering Foolproof tips for Canvassing.
When I was looking last night, I found SFO-DC flights for as little as $150 one-way (on US Air) with 10 days advance purchase (we've inherited a car and have family near there, plus a family wedding in the middle of VA, so we'll be driving on down to the Durham area).
This morning I got a TravelZoo Newsflash: Fares as low as $95 cross-country (each way with round trip), with restrictions that may be compatible with GOTV work on election day weekend through election day: 3 night minimum or Saturday night stay required, 14-day advance purchase, for travel through Nov. 25, max stay 30 days, purchase by this Friday.
I've only seen the $95 price show up in two places in the examples: Seattle-Raleigh (hey, that's a Swing State! And South Carolina is pretty darned close) And you can get to SEA via quick, frequent train from Oregon) and San Francisco-Baltimore. Most other examples are higher. And of course there are all kinds of fees, mondo penalties for changes (probably exceeding ticket values), and you pay to check every bag, at levels that dramatically escalate if you go over 50 pounds or 1 bag.
Through today only there are some other more-geographically-diverse sales going on, so don't assume that you'll find your best deal through a search on this one airline site. I always run multiple searches with different parameters and try to develop a mental model of pricing structures before going to the individual-airline site for the actual booking.
What kind of deals are you seeing? Please include links in comments to good search resources as well as any deals that have caught your eye.
UPDATE 2: What should appear in my inbox but a little love letter from Virgin America, proudly proclaiming: "The fares are low and on the move". They seem to be running a kind of roulette wheel behind the website, offering different discounts at different times of day totaling 48 hours during the next 11 days. While the website doesn't promise particular prices, the email listed prices up and down the West Coast starting at $59, and cross-country starting at $139 each way. Since you can 1 bag of up to 70 pounds without a fee, and there are more nonstops, it can be worth paying a little bit more. And don't forget various airline sales promoted at Travelocity, which has some deals if you book hotel and/or rental car along with your flight, and United's "E-Fares" specials available for the next two weekends, which do require a return no later than Tuesday but can be good for quick weekend getways.
My 2004 Experience
Last time 'round, when I was just starting out on dKos, I organized a Green Tortoise charter bus trip from the SF Bay Area to Flagstaff, Arizona and brought along a busload of happy activists in September to pound the pavement and knock on friendly doors and otherwise assist the local party office; I took advantage of an earlier business trip to meet with a party "Driving Votes" coordinator to make introductions and work out logistics.
When we got there, they had so many folks (including other groups) there helping the office that some of us carpooled further over to the small Northeast AZ border town of Page for the first time and I got to knock on friendly doors for state assembly, an amazing and educational experience for me and also great for her to show that the party was supporting her. When I returned with a small group just before election day: I was handed some car keys and given an important assignment: deliver election-watcher support materials to the party's designated pollwatcher... at the Grand Canyon! While I can't guarantee that your experience will be the same,
I've been having a blast hosting some local debate-watching parties (Berkeleyans: join us tomorrow night for the last one at the Hillside Club, featuring HDTV on the big screen and Cheese Board Pizza in a historic community center - RSVP via upcoming or FaceBook). But now it's time to roll up our sleeves for the final push, even if that means
visiting a vacation paradise suffering through TSA security and cattle-car-packed flights to do our patriotic duty.