Georgia Election Runoffs / Volunteering

- January 2nd, 2021


This past week, I spent about 3-4 hours volunteering as part of the Jon Ossoff campaign. There’s two elections coming up to elect Georgia’s senators which will ultimately determine who controls the legislative chamber; it has important implications for Biden’s first term.

So I want to start this off by talking about how I feel volunteering for political campaigns; it’s hard for me to not feel that I’m providing free labor to personally enrich the candidate (and his team). When they win, that person will establish their career, job, and financial gains and gain far more than I will. Now of course, while they will benefit the most individually, there is the hope that collectively, the benefits for the everyone will far outweigh what they gain; and that’s why people volunteer because there’s a greater cause behind the candidate. Still it just feels gross, and yet I still volunteer because not participating is worse (although I think someone taking the stance of deliberating not volunteering because it’s a bad system is better than someone who does not not want to give their time). Plus, volunteering is fun and I feel happier knowing I did it. I also donated money this election cycle. There’s two friends to thank for this, Kenneth R and Sonya Z, and I really do appreciate their contributions and push.

I guess the above shows that there can be contradictions between how you feel and what you intellectually believe, and that for some beliefs, it’s better to look past them. I do hope they dramatically reform the election system, by “removing money” in politics and also lowering the prestige and benefits politicians receive from their role; I don’t understand why senators are some of the wealthiest in the country. Alternatively, campaigns should pay people instead of relying on free labor; we don’t allow companies to take advantage of unpaid work, so why should campaigns.

Now to describe what volunteering looks like. In the first session we used a system called ThruTalk which contains many different voter lists. The system then dials a number, connects you to them so that they can say your piece, record information (like persoon already voted, wrong number, do not call back, etc), and then automatically dials the next person. Over the course of a hour, I probably spoke to about 7-8 people, a few who cheered me for volunteering and said they’ve already voted, and a couple others who were not thrilled to be receiving the call. One women went on for minutes regarding that she’s already voted and received far too many calls and texts, and that it’s not a good look for the democratic party to be spamming them (fwiw, I agree with her and wish the “do not call” was more effective). I didn’t speak to a single undecided voter, or even one who I was able to share valuable information with. It’s hard to not be discouraged. The saving grace is knowing that this election is close (it’s why we’re having runoffs!) and the victory will be won in the margins; phone banks do show 1-2% improvements and that may be enough in a few days (statistic unverified, provided by the campaign). There were about 60 volunteers in my session, with most likely in the 50+ age range.

The second session was done through the campaign’s AAPI arm; there were 6 of present and more in my age range. This is probably the goto in getting new volunteers to join. Here we’re given a spreadsheet of about 200 names and the task is to message all of them. The thinking is the AAPI group are active WhatsApp users so that would be effective outreach. Again of the all of messages sent, only a handful responded, and nobody asked for more information. Really wish they programtically messaged the list and shared that with the campaign, but was told it’s likely a rule that humans need to behind the “send” button. Here’s two screenshots.



I have volunteered before on the Obama campaign, and while I did think that was also pretty ineffective use of my time, being in person made a difference. There’s shared dinner / pizza and shared feelings and excitment doing it.

Hoping for the best. I know my experience likely won’t move the needle but collectively we might make the differnce. The stakes are high and I’m glad to have taken part.