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Happy November!

You may have heard there is an election happening in this country. You may have heard it is happening on Tuesday. And yes, I am here in your inbox this weekend to tell you that there is a way to make friends — and strengthen your friendships — while voting.

You may be registered to vote, you may not (though if you live in California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington state, Wisconsin, or Wyoming, you can still show up and register to vote on-site), you might not even be able to because of immigration restrictions. But it is never too late to try — if you're not registered for the Tuesday election, just register now to make sure you're ready for the next one! Each vote really does matter — here's a list by NPR of more than 25 races that have been decided by single-digit votes.

The 2016 election walloped a lot of people in different ways. The two years since then have showed us more and more ways to cause divisiveness, fear, and hatred in our world. But you guys all know that the way to fight hate is not with more hate. One way to stand up and say that you're not going to be intimidated by the fear is by standing up, going to your polling place, and voting for people who are truly making our country a better place. 🇺🇸

If you're uncertain how you want to vote or what is even on your ballot, I recommend Ballotpedia and BallotReady as resources to read up on before you enter the voting booth. Your local newspaper might have some endorsements of certain candidates to help reason out the context of the race. You can do this!

All right y'all, here's this week's Q&A with Amy from Kansas, a stellar voting rights advocate who shares how she talks with her friends about the importance of voting and how she's made friends through the process herself.

Your friend,

Christine
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Christine: Can you tell me a little about yourself — who you are, where you live, what you do?

Amy: I live in Berryton, Kansas, which is a rural area outside Topeka. I teach and am finishing my PhD at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. I'm in the communication studies department (and also earning an MA in political science) and use a mixed-methods approach in my studies on political psychology, information processing, direct democracy, and persuasion.

In addition to my studies, I have volunteered with congressional, state legislature, and presidential races and worked (as an intern or employee) for: a West Virginia State Senate president and majority leader, a U.S. House subcommittee, a congresswoman's district office in Ohio, a lobbyist in Kansas, and a top political think tank in Washington, D.C.  My love of all things politics and policymaking has been a lifelong interest — as a kid, I worked at my county courthouse on election night to help post the results as they came in from the precincts and I even won a district-wide letter-writing competition in sixth grade for my plea to my congressman for better immigration policies. [Christine note: I love this!]

This election cycle, I am one of theSkimm's No Excuses Captains, which means I was flown to HQ for Captain Camp, an awesome experience during which I was able meet incredible women from across the country, hear from fascinating speakers, and get (even more) pumped for the midterms. In 2016, No Excuses got 100,000 people registered to vote, and the goal this year is to take it a step further and get 100,000 people to commit to actually show up to the polls (be counted — take our pledge to vote here: skimmth.is/vote). I have also been working closely with the League of Women Voters and have partnered with a dozen different groups across campus to help get folks registered and ready to vote.

Christine: So — why is voting important to you, and why is it important to you that others vote? 

Amy: Voting is important to me because it affects our individual lives and our communities in myriad and, often, unrealized ways. And, even though presidential and congressional elections get the most attention, what someone's state legislature, city council, county commission, etc. do often more directly affects their day-to-day life, and that's where people showing up and making their faces seen and voices heard can have the most power. 

The only way to hold our elected officials accountable to the actual citizens they represent is to make our voices heard, which is why it's important to me that others vote — it's the most concrete way to give our approval or disapproval and we need the whole community to be part of that decision. We can all make a difference, but wielding our power as a community will reap the biggest gains.  

Christine: How do you convince your friends and family to vote (not necessarily vote one particular way over another, but to go out and put in their ballot either way)? What have you found works best? 

Amy: First of all, a one-on-one, personal discussion with your friends is one of the most effective ways to get somebody to vote. So, by making sure your friends vote, you can have a big impact on this election.

The way I see it, there are three main barriers to voting - procedural knowledge, political knowledge, and motivation. So, for each friend and family member I talk to, I try to address the combination of barriers I think they have.  

  • For procedural knowledge, i.e. voting logistics, I make sure they're registered and then talk about the options of absentee (by mail), advance voting (in person), and Election Day voting and how to pursue their preferred option.  
  • My go-to for political knowledge — knowing who to vote for — is Vote411.org/ballot, a tool that not only lets you see all of the races on your ballot but also includes candidates' answers to a questionnaire so you can much more quickly and easily decide who to vote for based on their actual policy positions.  
  • Motivation is where all the excuses come in — my vote doesn't matter, I'm too busy, and on and on. When trying to motivate, I try to bring up a specific state-level policy/issue I know the person cares about (or, sometimes, it's an issue I care about and I explain why they should care too) and emphasize how important their vote is for that issue (e.g. Medicaid expansion, education funding, etc.).  People tend to already believe voting is good, so emphasizing that alone isn't enough to mobilize them to actually show up. 

Making sure all your friends and family members have a voting plan is the best way to ensure all the barriers have been eradicated — ask them where and when they'll vote and if they've selected their candidates. Research shows that having people make a detailed plan significantly increases the likelihood that they'll vote. Here in Kansas, I even made a basic website (KSVotingPlan.org) to help people make a voting plan — feel free to check it out for ideas! Also, help facilitate the execution of their plan by riding together to the polls, dropping their absentee ballot off for them, or making them send you the "I voted" selfie.  

This strategy of focusing on the mechanics of voting can help both political and apolitical friends. Another strategy I've used with apolitical friends is to tie voting to supporting me. My best friend is resistant to all things political, but she knows how much effort I've put into GOTV efforts, so I'll say something like this in a joking way: "I am spending a zillion hours a week on this — you better get your butt out there and not let all this work be a waste!"

Finally, getting them to commit (whether through skimmth.is/vote or even just a promise to you) will increase also increase the likelihood that they turn out.  

Christine: You mentioned you've been able to make friends through your GOTV efforts. Can you give some examples? 

Amy: One of my favorite parts of GOTV efforts is that when you meet other people doing the same work, you're able to bond quickly because you're passionate about the same things.  Some of the dozens of connections I've made are still just acquaintances, but will likely still be useful in the future. But, I have made or deepened real friendships as well. For example, there are two people on my Skimm Squad who are local and I already knew, but we have grown much closer because of our GOTV efforts — we attend events together, share resources, and have a group message going to discuss candidates and other political news. Those ladies fill me with pride and energy and I am lucky to have them as both GOTV partners and friends.  

Canvassing — either walking doors or having a table at an event — is an easy way to make a new friend while getting out the vote!  

Christine: What are some organizations you'd recommend for getting involved with GOTV? 

Amy: I absolutely love the League of Women Voters — they are passionate, they show up, and they get results. They have county-level chapters and even though I am on the younger end of my chapter, I have made some great friends and connections there. And, although they have a few policy positions on voting issues, they're nonpartisan with the primary goal to get more people to vote, so their mission is an easy sell to your friends of all political stripes!  They work on voting and have events year-round, so it's never too late to join.

I'd also look into organizations like Postcards to Voters through which you can send postcards to folks reminding them to vote. This is also an excellent activity to do as a group, so you can gather a couple of friends and make a difference while you're hanging out!

If you are comfortable volunteering with a partisan group, I'd recommend seeking out a local or state campaign you care about. Volunteering on a campaign, even for just a day of canvassing or phone banking, enables you to meet awesome people and make a big difference. Folks are less likely to know about down-ballot candidates, so if you have one you're passionate about, spend a few hours helping them out and you'll probably help up-ballot races while you're at it!

Christine: What else should people know about this? 

Amy: 

  • If you're going to use turnout in your messaging, research shows you'll be much more effective if you emphasize big turnout or the need for everyone to turnout than highlighting low numbers (e.g. "only x% voted last year — vote" is less effective than "thousands of your neighbors are voting this year — join them").  You need to make them feel wanted at the polls, not give them an excuse not to go (oh, lots of other people don't vote - I guess I don't need to either).  
  • Asking people to "be a voter" is more effective than just asking them to "vote".  
  • Finally, for some (but not all) people, it helps to remind them that whether or not they voted will be public record — a lot of people will tell you they will vote (and may even tell you they did) even if they didn't because they think it's private. 

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

✨✨✨
Be a voter — if you don't, who will? 

Grow the Sow.

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