By Rachel Epstein published
When thinking about an election as consequential as the one that will take place on November 3, 2020—which not only includes choosing our next president but also key races that could flip the Senate blue—it can feel overwhelming deciding where to focus our efforts to help make a difference. While swing states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin have the greatest ability to affect the outcome of the election, every vote in every state matters. And while the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly presented challenges to traditional campaigning, one silver lining is that people who don't reside in any of the 12 swing states can have as much of an impact as those who do.
"Primarily, this year, the way that people can get involved and make a big impact is by phone banking. We're seeing that people are picking up their phones and responding to calls when we reach out to voters in swing states. People can do that from anywhere, whenever it's convenient for them," explains Erica Sagrans, head of organizing at Swing Left. "A lot of our volunteers have these phone banking parties where they'll get on Zoom and have 50 to 100 people check in, learn how to phone bank, and then just stay on Zoom while they're making calls and chat with each other."
Along with phone banking, we've outlined the ways you can safely and effectively make a difference in the 2020 election—whether you live in a swing state or not—below.
Register to Vote
Voter registration deadlines are quickly approaching across the country—make sure to register today if you haven't already. It takes two minutes, and you can do so here. After you've registered to vote, reach out to family and friends to make sure they're registered as well. For those who moved around during the pandemic (especially people in college who moved back home and may be completing their courses online), make sure they're registered to vote in the correct state.
Know the Facts About Mail-In Voting
There is a lot of misinformation being spread about absentee voting, otherwise known as mail-in voting. Although the president continuously attempts to delegitimize the practice by stating that mail-in voting is synonymous with voter fraud, there is no evidence that confirms this. Mail-in voting is a safer alternative to voting in person during the pandemic, and states have been practicing it for years. It's important to communicate this to friends, family, and colleagues who may feel like they need to compromise their health to cast their ballot. To be clear: they do not.
Find out rules and eligibility to vote by mail in your state here.
Learn Where Candidates Stand on Important Issues
In order to achieve record voter turnout, it's important to educate yourself (and others!) on the issues that are at stake in the 2020 election. Start by reading these articles:
How Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Will Fight COVID-19
Where Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Stand on Climate Change
Where Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Stand on Gun Control
Where Kamala Harris Stands on the Economy
Where Kamala Harris Stands on Healthcare
Additionally, a great way to see where Senate candidates across the country stand on important issues like gun control is by following along the virtual Giffords Road to Universal Background Tour that calls for a Senate majority to pass universal background checks.
As we mentioned above, phone banking has become a safe and effective alternative to canvassing during the COVID-19 pandemic. To get started, you can head to Swing Left's phone banking hub to choose a swing state to phone bank in, or see what groups in your area are hosting virtually. If you're a first-time phone banker, Swing Left provides all of the tools for you to get started. By contacting just one person, you're impacting multiple races down the ballot. Local elections matter!
Write Letters to Voters
Letter writing to encourage people to vote is another effective virtual campaign tool that simultaneously benefits the United States Postal Service (USPS) currently under attack by the Trump administration. Gather a group of friends, or join one of Swing Left's virtual letter writing parties to meet other volunteers.
Organizations across the country are dedicated to defending our democracy and helping fight voter suppression that our country is currently facing at an all-time high. Below, a few organizations to donate to, if you have the means, that are putting in the work to help ensure free and fair elections:
You can also donate directly to the campaign you're interested in, which will help fund more staff and build a stronger infrastructure, or buy voter merch where proceeds go directly to certain organizations.
Sign Up to Become a Poll Worker
Fun fact: Poll workers get paid. There's a poll worker shortage across the country due to the pandemic, and your city needs your help. Since July, Power the Polls has signed up more than 400,000 young, healthy voters to become poll workers across the United States, and you can become one of them. Learn more here.
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Talk to Friends and Family
Swing Left, along with 25 other progressive political organizations, launched "The Last Weekends": a campaign to "mobilize mass volunteer action across the country during the final weeks of the November elections," encouraging people to commit to volunteering and connecting with voters during this critical time period. The latter starts by having conversations with your own friends and family.
It's important to have conversations with those closest to you—especially in the final weeks leading up to the election—about the how they plan to vote, and what's at stake this election, including important social justice issues. (You can find an excellent guide on how to talk to your parents about Black Lives Matter here.) Ultimately, if you've had at least one conversation, you're making an impact—and that's what counts.
Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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