As the U.S. presidential election lies less than a week away, people are wondering now more than ever how they can get involved to encourage those to vote. People’s Action has made it possible to do it from the comfort of your own home.
Every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday, hundreds of people log on to Zoom to send thousands of texts to voters all across the U.S. while listening to live performances by Stylin’ Out Network DJs and other talented artists.
People’s Action, a nonprofit organization, hosts deep canvassing text banking and other events that fight for social causes such as economic and racial justice. Made up of 40 member organizations spread out across 30 states, they are currently putting major efforts to raise awareness on the importance of electing Presidential Nominee Joe Biden and encouraging people to go vote. Vishal Reddy, text team lead for People’s Action, spoke with Stylin’ Out Network about how the organization is raising awareness for Nov. 3 and beyond.
What moved you to join and become involved with People’s Action?
VISHAL REDDY: What really compelled me to People’s Action is they were focused on doing long term power building and base building. This is an organization that’s been here for a while, it’s an organization that will be here for a while, and I was compelled by the idea that this organization has been focusing on the election, but they also know that there is more work to be done. People’s Action is a really good blend of focusing on the presidential [election]–understanding the importance and the stakes of a second Donald Trump presidency–while also having to put down ballets and do progressive power building. We are able to energize folks on both.
Why are the text banks so effective at reaching voters?
VR: People’s Action is doing something called deep canvassing, [it] is this persuasive method that is 102 times more effective at persuasion than traditional organizing. It’s all about connecting stories and experiences and really finding a lot of vulnerability, honesty, and authenticity. In terms of using deep canvassing, phone banking and door knocking is much better because you can sort of have that long, meditative, open conversation. In terms of moving people to action and identifying where people stand, texting is really effective because you can do all those things at a high volume and do it really quickly.
What other ways are people able to get involved besides texting and calling voters?
VR: One thing we built the text team to do is to engage people who have other skills and talent. So, let’s say you don’t really like texting or phone banking, but you want to design the graphics or want to do data analysis, or you want to help write the text and scripts. There are other different ways to engage in terms of building up this program.
How has music and live performance added to the text bank experience?
VR: It’s enriched it so much, especially in this moment where people don’t have physical interaction, they don’t have concerts, they don’t have community the same way they normally do. There’s a lot of community to be drawn from taking collective action together and sitting on a Zoom call. [The music] adds an intimate vibe and adds an energizing vibe. It really enriches the texting experience that way. I can’t even imagine what a text bank would look like where we’re not having live artists. It would feel so stale and dry but instead it’s this really energetic vibe.
Some of the artists [and] musicians [have] expressed that they haven’t played in front of an audience in six, seven, or eight months, so to play in front of an audience while also energizing hundreds of volunteers to reach millions of voters, it’s such a cool thing… I’m really, really grateful to Stylin’ Out [Network]. The cool thing about having DJ’s come on week after week is that our texters form a real connection with the DJ’s and the music. And so, they love DJ Virgil’s stuff and they love DJ Quicktastic, and it’s all just sort of cool to see our texters show up and have this expectation that DJ Virgil7 is going to come play… it’s just awesome.
How will People's Action engage the public after the election and what kind of social work needs to be continued?
VR: I think it’s still an open question, certainly fighting for progressive causes and that’ll mean fighting for COVID relief recovery, that’ll mean for 2021 ballot races, in November it very well could mean fighting for a fair election. So, I think those three are the big areas that will be an emphasis for People’s Action.
You can sign for phone or text banks at peoplesaction.org/volunteer. And if you haven’t already, make sure to vote on Nov. 3.
-Tessa Brubaker is an independent journalist working in Chicago, IL.