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Brown student volunteers phone bank in final push before election day

Emphasizing importance of voter engagement, University students rally votes for Biden, Dems in crucial swing state

University students have called thousands of potential voters across the United States, rallying last-minute votes that could be decisive in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. 

Despite polls that have shown former Vice President Joseph Biden as a frontrunner in the 2020 race, student campaign volunteers have spent the final days of an unprecedented election season mobilizing voters and campaigning for Biden and Democratic Party candidates across the country. 

For many students who spoke to The Herald, phone banking has been a rewarding way to get involved politically. 

“I do not want to wake up on November 4 and know that I could’ve done more to impact the outcome,” said Olivia Williams ’22.5. 

Williams has spent her fall participating in phone banking events for the Democratic Party of Iowa, a traditionally-conservative swing state that could be critical to the outcome of this presidential election. 

“Every vote really counts, especially in those swing states,” Williams said. “Even though it feels inconsequential, just talking to five people over two hours … actually makes a huge difference.”

Williams cited an example of a woman she spoke to over the phone on Monday, who thought the election was the following week. After informing her that the election was in fact the following day, Williams said she “helped her find her polling place and now she’s set to go.” 

Emmajane Rhodenhiser ’22, who also phone banked for the Democratic Party of Iowa, emphasized the importance of connecting voters with the resources they need. “It’s asking them and reminding them to (vote) now, (vote) early and make a plan to go,” she said.

Olivia McClain ’22.5, a virtual field organizer with the Democratic Party in her home state of Wisconsin, said it has been rewarding to inform potential voters about election resources and help walk people through the voting process. 

“The key for phone banking is to be really resilient and patient. Some people are going to be rude. Some people say really horrible things on the phone,” she said, but “there’s also people who are so grateful for the calls.” 

While phone banking, McClain has convinced a first-time voter to send in their ballot, helped an 80-year-old woman vote by mail and informed a voter with COVID-19 about curbside voting options. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges to traditional in-person campaigning, students said the pandemic has prompted a surge in phone banking and campaign volunteering this election season. 

“Phone banking has become, in most places, the only responsible way to reach voters on a massive scale,” said Galen Winsor ‘22.5, a staffer for Jaime Harrison’s campaign for South Carolina’s U.S. Senate seat. 

Normally, campaigns would focus on door-to-door canvassing and hosting more in-person events. “But because of the pandemic, the focus has really shifted towards phone banking,” Windsor said. “You’re able to reach a lot of voters in a short amount of time.” 

McClain said Wisconsin’s Democratic Party has seen unprecedented levels of volunteering and phone banking. The virtual nature of campaign volunteering has “really opened up the possibilities of who can participate,” she added. 

Though COVID-19 has changed the way many originally thought they would engage in political campaigns, it has also created opportunities for some who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in campaigning. 

Ainsley Clapp '22, who phone banked for the Democratic Party in Iowa and in her home state of Maine, said remote learning and changes to her college life have given her more time to volunteer this election.  

“Normally, without the pandemic, I would have Rugby practice and be working at the Blue Room,” she said, but now she has a lot more time to make calls.

Clapp noted  that while phone banking is not the most exciting activity, it could lead to something exciting.  

“Yeah, you’re sitting on the phone, listening to the dial tone for three hours,” Clapp said, “but you’re also doing something to change the outcome of the election.”



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