Hello, friends. Can I be real for a sec? I keep returning to this feeling of…languishing. I know it’s common right now, normal even, and truly, the world feels like a pretty miserable place these days. I mean…how do we begin to dig ourselves out of this mess of human existence that is 2022? Is there anything you or I (or anyone) can really do?
In times like these, when headlines just keep serving up another cocktail of anxiety and despair, I take a deep breath (Do it with me — in for three…out for six… Repeat as needed.), and think of the words of Princess Anna from the “Frozen 2” song “The Next Right Thing.” Go ahead. Google it. I’ll wait. The lyrics are kinda my blueprint for tough times.
So, what is the next right thing, you ask? When I’m feeling particularly helpless and hopeless (ooh, another cocktail!), I feel instantly better when I can reclaim at least some modicum of agency. I feel better when I can find a way to act on my values and beliefs and move beyond my initial hand-wringing and doom-scrolling — when I am actually doing something. But it can be hard to figure out where to start. What can one person realistically do? What is even helpful right now?
How To Get Involved In Local Politics (When You’re Too Busy To Get Out The Vote)
If you’re anything like me — a busy, somewhat conflict-averse parent of young children, who doesn’t love cold-calling or door-knocking to ask strangers for things, with no aspirations to run for any kind of office (not even the PTA) — then a great place to start is with increasing voter turnout.
Voter turnout is abysmal, especially for nonpresidential races. But all of those seemingly less-exciting elections matter. People need to turn up and vote in local, state and Congressional elections if we want change. We need to shore up this very basic tenet of democracy and Get Out the Vote. Pretty much everyone can help do this, no special skills needed, and you can even help do this for states and districts that aren’t your own.
Back in 2008, I tried GOTV phone-banking. I had to go to some random location on a Saturday morning, where I volunteered for three hours and reached maybe two people, one of whom hung up on me about 30 seconds into my spiel. Let’s just say, I didn’t love the experience, and I didn’t sign up for another shift.
I’m happy to report that there are so many better options these days.
Here are my favorite low-key ways to start:
Postcards To Voters
About the Organization: Postcards To Voters is just what it sounds like: You hand-write a postcard using the script they provide to encourage a low-propensity voter to make a plan to vote. It’s usually campaign-specific, but I’ve also done it before where it was just about encouraging people to register to vote by mail or re-register to vote because the voting laws just changed in their state. These efforts are incredibly important, given how voting laws in many states keep changing.
Why It’s Doable: My favorite thing about postcarding is that it’s a super-low commitment — you can just sign up for five addresses at a time, so it makes it way easier to fit into busy schedules. This was also a nice way for me to use up my own postcard stash! But if you don’t have any, they also have printable templates available to make your own, as well as many options for buying postcards (linked below).
About the Organization: Vote Forward focuses on sending letters. A template is provided for you to print out with some additional space to write why voting is important to you. I did this in 2020, and they hosted a fun Zoom event to train and motivate us, including entertainment from various Hamilton cast members.
Why It’s Doable: I like that Vote Forward has a system for tracking results and evaluating its impact on voter turnout. I think I had to sign up for 20 at a time, but it was actually faster to prepare than a postcard, given the printed templates!
How My Family Got Involved: I also got the whole family and some friends to help me, assembly-line style. My kids wanted to decorate and sign their names; someone was tasked with envelope addressing, another worked on stuffing and sealing the envelope; and a final person was in charge of putting on stamps. Good feels all around!
About the Organization: The MomsRising organization is newer to me, but I love the idea of moms rising up together to make change. Its website includes lots of different ways to take action, including sign-on letters to your elected officials and postcarding for the 2022 midterms. It also provides tons of information, organized by issues that moms care about, such as the formula shortage, gun violence, childcare support, reproductive and voting rights, and more.
Why It’s Doable: What appeals to me about sending letters and postcards is that it’s easy, and I also get to tap into other activities that make me happy, like being creative and hanging out with friends. But only if I feel like it — sometimes I just do my whole batch of postcards with no extra frills or colorful ink, by myself, while listening to a podcast. Once you go through a brief training and are “approved” (each organization has its own instructions), you can get into your own groove or mix it up whenever you want.
A Few Other Easy-ish Ways To Become Politically Active
Ready to move beyond sending mail and signing petitions? Here are some options that are slightly more involved:
Tell Your Friends
Why Reach Out? As much as I feel awkward about spamming my friends to get them to write postcards, letters, etc., it’s worth it. I almost always find like-minded friends, who are like: “Thanks! I didn’t know where to start, but sending letters feels doable!” We become comrades-in-arms, and then we can all encourage each other to keep going.
Where To Find Sample Messages: The reason I have pictures of these postcards and letters is because my friends and I were texting pictures to each other during the lead up to the 2020 elections! Once you sign up to volunteer, most of these organizations will give you tips and sample messages you can use to ask other people to join via email or social.
Host A Party
Why It Works: Pre-children, my husband and I used to host or attend ballot-research parties with our friends. This was probably my entry point into paying attention to local elections and not leaving half my ballot empty.
How To Plan Your Party: We’d invite over a small group of friends a few days before Election Day, have everyone bring their sample ballots, order some pizzas, and open some wine. For every ballot decision, each party guest would read from some kind of published information source — local news outlets, the official voter guide, the League of Women Voters, the local Democratic club endorsements, etc. We never debated or tried to convince each other of anything. It was like a study group; we were there to share information and make sure we were ready for Election Day in advance! (The social-accountability thing can be key for so many people to not procrastinate, myself included.)
What Is Text-Banking? This was my latest new thing to try…and it wasn’t bad! I did it through Activate America for a “No on the governor recall” election in California last year. We used some kind of software that scanned my personal contacts and came up with a list of people for me to text and a message to copy and paste.
Tips To Make It Easy: If you have text messaging set up on your computer, it’s pretty easy to do. There are also options to do this that don’t draw from your personal contacts for not-local-to-you races and have you set up a Google Voice number first, so your own personal phone number is not involved.
And if you’re on a roll and want to do even more… (OK, TBH, we’re getting out of my wheelhouse now, but I still have ideas for ya!)
Visit Sites Like Mobilize & Swing Left
Mobilize and Swing Left are two great sites to visit that help you take action and find key races or causes all around the country that need support. You can check them out year-round. I had no idea how wide-ranging dates for primary elections were!
A Little About Mobilize: Easily find events, petitions and volunteer opportunities in your area (including virtual events and quick actions to take right now).
Swing Left, in their own words: “Swing Left is building a lasting culture of grassroots participation in winning elections for the Left by making it as easy as possible for anyone to have maximum impact on the elections that determine the balance of power in our country.” When you sign up, you’ll receive updates on groups to join and ways to support quality candidates in the closest races.
Get Involved In A Local Organization Or Campaign
Seek Out a Local Organization: It could be nonpartisan, like your local League of Women Voters chapter, or a political caucus.
Join a Local Campaign: Is there a ballot measure you care about or someone running for local office you admire? The people behind these local efforts will be thrilled to have your help. And working at the local level can feel more immediate and tangible in a way that national politics might not. (I have a friend running for school board this year, and it has been fascinating to see what it takes to campaign for elected office!)
And last but not least, if you like to dig into one cause at a time, here are some great lists of things you can do, introduced to me by some of my favorite writers. Shana often includes links in her weekend posts! Also, see here and here.
Activism With A Side of Creativity: Supplies To Keep On Hand
If you’re like me and also like your activism with a side of creativity, here are some links for supplies to get started…
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9
It has taken me a while to find my place on the activism spectrum. And depending on how I’m feeling — languish-y or fired up — and what’s going on in my life, I dial it up or down. I think today calls for some postcard sign-ups.
The midterms are coming. It’s time to act. Even if it’s one baby step at a time.
What are your favorite ways to act?
Pinners! Don’t miss this:
2019 launched my campaign for school board and it has been one hell of a ride! I am grateful that I’ve done it and I’m even crazy enough to do another term if I get elected next year but I completely concur that those of us running around local campaigns me peoples help because it’s a lot of work for one person and there’s so little turnout for these elections that every vote really matters!! Thank you for putting out all these resources.
I had such a cool experience in 2020 when I volunteered for phone banking through Mobilize. I called voters in swing states and texted as well. The apps they have are amazing and it was so easy. I did it while watching football games (Go Niners!) and I loved feeling that I was being useful. It was super easy and while I had no skin in the state election game, it was really interesting to see where I was needed and to help inform people of where they could go to vote and how they could get their ballots in.
Thank you for posting this very important information. One thing I might add that I have done and really loved is working the polls. I did it in the 2018 midterms for the first time and I was hooked. Several friends and I have been doing it ever since. You REALLY learn a lot being on the ground and helping voters at the polls. Plus, it’s exciting to be where all the action is. I don’t know about in all states but in Texas where I am, students can work as student poll workers once they turn 16. My son is 18 now and has worked in 5 elections. It’s an awesome way to get young people plugged in. You just have to get your principal to sign off on it, but I would argue that it’s one of the best civics lessons your kids can learn. He also was able to put it on his resume for college.
Excellent information! I already write postcards for Postcards for Voters but I’m glad to read about other ways to get involved. Will share this info with friends. Thank you!
Love this post! I started volunteering for Moms Demand Action and there are a lot of options for busy moms.
Love these resources. Thank you!!
That’s amazing, Jennifer! I’m learning so much just volunteering on my friend’s campaign — my heart goes out to all of you running for elected office. Good luck on the campaign trail next year! You should write a “tell-all” someday — I’d totally read it!
Sara, that sounds like an awesome experience! I’d love to work the polls someday and get my kids to do it too (when they’re old enough). I’m inspired!