Project Wonderful

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ask An Election Nerd: I'm going canvassing tomorrow!!!

I got this question on my tumblr and I mostly sharing it with you because I think it's adorable. Also, guys are you not training your volunteers? I can't hold the whole operation together remotely from New York! Help me help you! But seriously, your volunteers should know what they are doing before they come into your office or at very least they should have your contact info so they can call or e-mail you instead of emailing me. I mean I'm happy to help but, ya know. Also, if my tumblr is the first thing that comes up when someone searches for you candidate/issue campaign, that might be a problem too. Enjoy!


I don't know if you will see this/reply to it in time but I will ask anyway. I randomly found this blog while searching for information about the campaign. I am going canvassing in my city tomorrow for the very first time. I don't know what to expect at all. Do you have any tips such as what a guy should wear? Anything would help though.



Oh man, this question is awesome. Although I am mildly concerned that this is the website that comes up when you search for the campaign. I don’t know what campaign you are searching for, but I can’t imagine any campaign wants this to be what comes up.

Anyway, to answer your question: Canvassing can vary from campaign to campaign. You will most likely be walking from door to door. Most campaigns will give you a targeted list of voters and you will have a script to follow and a way to record the information. I am sure your field organizer will explain to you exactly what to do when you arrive for your shift. (If not, please report back and I will be sure to yell at her/him!!!!!)

As for what you should wear, there is no need to dress up. Just look relatively clean and presentable and make sure to wear something comfortable since you will be walking around outdoors.

Without knowing what you are volunteering for, I want to thank you on behalf of the entire campaign community. (It’s cool, they’ve basically made me their queen.) And please do let me know how it goes!

Good luck!



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews

If you are unfamiliar with the art of the Yiddish curse, let me lay it on you. A little wit, unecessarily specific, and often based in an ironic twist on the recipient's fondest wishes. For example: Hindert hayzer zol er hobn, in yeder hoyz a hindert tsimern, in yeder tsimer tsvonsik betn un kadukhes zol im varfn fin eyn bet in der tsveyter,which means "A hundred houses shall he have, in every house a hundred rooms and in every room twenty beds, and a delirious fever should drive him from bed to bed." If you are unfamiliar with the Republican party plaform, then you may be a Republican. (Badum, ching!)

If you are a Jewish Democrat or Republican, you will find these incredibly clever.

"May you have a rare disease and need an operation that only one surgeon in the world, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, is able to perform. And may he be unable to perform it because he doesn’t take your insurance. And may that Nobel Laureate be your son."

And that's just the tip of the matzoh. Click here for more.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Welcome to Tampa!

Just in time for the Republican National Convention, Ruth's List (think a statewide version of EMILY's List) sponsored this billboard to let the GOP know just what they're walking into.

My favorite part about this story is "Republicans have indicated they plan to retaliate in kind during the Democratic National Convention the week after." Prank war!!!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Nobody for President

"A quirky Nevada law that Republicans feared could siphon votes from a disgruntled electorate and sway the outcome of close presidential and U.S. Senate races in the state was struck down Wednesday by a federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jones said the state’s decades-old ballot alternative of “none of the above” was unconstitutional because votes for “none” don’t count in the final tallies that determine winners."

I know, I know, it's not cool for me to be on board with this decision because it helps the Republicans, but I can't help but think that there should not be a choice on the ballot, that if it gains the majority of the votes, however unlikely that is, cannot serve in the position. Of course voters should have an alternative to the two major parties, but that's what third parties are for. In an election, you vote for your best option...hopefully you're voting for rather than against somebody. Diehard Democrat that I am, I would rather see Mitt Romney in the White House than literally not have a President. I have a feeling would-be "none" voters feel the same. No doubt this lawsuit was motivated by partisan politics. There are a lot of states in which Republicans have waged war on voting rights and I find it despicable, but if we lose this election because people couldn't vote "none" in Nevada, we've already lost it.

Pro-Tip: Set Goals

One of my recruiting best practices is to set clear goals for your volunteers. Sure, a volunteer might not meet the goal you set for her, but she is much more likely to meet and exceed it if you put it out there. Behold!

It is really worth your time to zoom in to read the complaints scrawled all over this tally sheet including "should have worn a pedometer" and "No lunch! No supper!" But despite complaining that the 50 door goal was "totally unrealistic," the volunteer surpassed the goal by nine doors! GOOOOOOAL!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

17 Decorating Ideas for a Field Office

Example of an election day countdown.

Stolen from a facebook friend's wall.

One of the best wall calendars I have ever seen!

One of my cardinal rules for running a good volunteer program is that your office should be like a kindergarten classroom. It should be neat and organized, there should be plenty of snacks and of course, lots of colorful things up on the fall. It may sound trite, but when you provide a fun, celebratory environment, volunteers will have more energy and want to be in there, which means more and higher quality shifts for you!

It's not always easy to find creative and inexpensive ways to decorate a large space. Inspired by a question submitted to my tumblr, here are 17 ways to spice up the walls of your field office:

1) Rock Star Volunteer Wall I want to change this from a "way" to decorate your office to mandatory. A volunteer wall is a great way to make your volunteers feel valued AND it can take up a lot of space. You can set whatever benchmark you want for someone to qualify as a "rock star volunteer." It could be someone who has a regular shift every week, someone who has helped recruit other volunteers, or someone who has knocked a certain number of doors cumulatively. There are lots of way to make your volunteer wall look fun and special. You can cut out gold stars and write your volunteers' names on them, you can put them as leaves on a tree. Once in a lakeside community I put volunteers' names on sailboats and placed them in some "water" I painted on the wall. The sky's the limit! (Oooh! Or you could also make the sky!)

2) Meet Our Team As with the rock start volunteer wall, there are many creative and customizable ways to do this project. Print out pictures of your office staff, interns, and even neighborhood team leaders and/or statewide staff if you like. Under each photo put the person's name, role on the campaign and whatever fun facts you think your volunteers might be interested to know. (Hometown? College? Why they support your candidate? Favorite Ice Cream flavor?) One benefit to a "meet the team" display is that your volunteers have a way of recognizing and knowing the names of everyone who can help them in the office. It's also a great way for volunteers to find previously undiscovered common ground with staff members which can help cement your personal connection.

3) Big quotes from the candidate If your candidate is particularly dynamic, giant quotes painted or hung on the wall can help volunteers remain fired up about working for him. You don't have to be a national celebrity name to pull this off. For example, if I were working for Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach's campaign I would put up "If you have to stop people from voting to win elections, your ideas suck." (Seriously, Pennsylvania Republican party!)

4) Countdown What field office would be complete without a good ol' fashioned countdown to election day? I know this is the subject of controversy in the campaign community but I always count election day as Day 0. A countdown calendar helps you create a sense of urgency. I like to use giant poster-sized post it paper and re-use two sets of numerals 0-9.

5) I support the candidate because... Along with the volunteer wall, this is one of my favorites because it's a great way to remind volunteers why they're doing their hard work AND help give them a sense of ownership of the office is to print out sheets of paper that say "I support candidate X because__________" and then have a spot to fill in their reason for working for your candidate. As long as reasons are inoffensive you can hang anything from "I support Congresswoman Lastname because my body is my choice." to "I support Congresswoman Lastname because she saved my business from being foreclosed on." Simple, effective, and a great injection of postive energy.

6) Local mascot for candidate banners A fun intern project! Get a long roll of butcher paper (*Pro Tip* many local papers will give you rolls of white newsprint that is used to back newspaper for free) and have your interns paint a giant local sports team for candidate banner. When I worked in Iowa City, we capitalized on the Hawkeyes for Edwards theme, but you can do it with any local high school too. Takes up space, is bright and colorful and adds to the sense that this is this community's office.

7) Thank You posters These take less than five minutes to create. Right when anyone walks in and at least once in the phone bank area, I always have a homemade poster that simply says "Thank you! We couldn't do this without you!" or "We love our volunteers!!!" Have I stressed enough yet how important it is to make your volunteers feel valued?

8) Map of the state I don't mean the maps you keep in up to help you determine Congressional/State Senate district lines. I mean a big colorful map that shows where all the field offices are or (in the case of a national race) where the candidate has been or is going. This is another way to help put your volunteer operation in the greater campaign context and emphasize the role that your local operation has to play.

9) Phone call/Doorknock/ID thermometer It doesn't have to be a thermometer and probably shouldn't. For example, if you are running for citywide office in New York, you may want to print out a copy of the Empire State Building and fill it as your volunteers identify supporters. Not only is this a fun visual but it creates goals for your volunteers to shoot for AND helps show them how those 10-15 positive IDs they made are contributing to overall progress!

10) Phone banking codes As a best practice, your phone and data volunteers should always have a copy of the codes within eye shot, so why not save the paper of printing them out with each call packet and keep your codes proudly and prominently displayed?

11) 10 ways to help Every supporter who walks into your office should be asked to help the campaign in some way, and then asked and asked again until you find some way for them to be involved. My standard field office has a "10 ways to help" poster right inside the front door with needs listed in order of priority. Every campaign is different, but in general I include: 1) Become a Precinct Captain/Neighborhood Team Leader 2) Host a Canvass 3)Knock Some Doors 4)Make Some Calls 5)Enter Data 6) Write a Letter to the Editor 7)Host a Debate Watch Party 8) Feed Our Volunteers 9)Donate to the Campaign and 10)Bring a Friend!

12) What happens with my IDs? I have a friend who recently volunteered on a campaign for the first time and left with a distaste for the experience. When I asked why, one of her major complaints was that the organizer in charge didn't explain where her work fit into the broader context. When I explained what happened with voter contact ID's she told me she would have been much more likely to return if she had had that information. Moral of the story: This project takes a little time to put together but is an extremely useful info graphic for your voter contact vols. It's basically a flow chart showing your universe and what what happens with each type of voter who is ID'd (For example: 4's and 5's are kicked out, 1's go into GOTV Universe, 2's and 3's go back into the original universe, potential vols are followed up with and those with questions get a follow up from the campaign.) I once made a giant Sesame Street themed one of these for a city council race. I still consider it to be my piece de resistance de office decoration.

13) Bunting, American flags and steamers. Can be purchased at the dollar store, require little assembly and add an old timey political vibe to your office. As a bonus, you can tear them down off the wall and bring them to a campaign rally on a moment's notice.

14) Placards
Free from the campaign and add a professional and cohesive vibe, plus see above.

15) Constituent group for candidate...
Nurses for Hillary. Women for Hillary. Farmers for Hillary. You get the idea. Pick a group of people, add a for + your candidate and a colorful picture and you have an instant wall decoration. Now host a phone bank specifically for that group. (Seniors for Hillary Senior to Senior phone bank anyone?) Repeat.

16) Cut outs of Silly Things. Your office needs to be fun for you too, and heaven knows we all go a little crazy after being cooped up with the same people day in and day out. As long as your place isn't crawling with irrelevant material, there's no reason you can't infuse a little of your own personality by putting up a poster of Ryan Gosling with a word bubble about how he can't wait to go knock some doors or Tim Gunn reminding your organizers to make it work! (See the ninja turtle above)

17) Calendar When is the next debate? What times do you have phone banks? When are where is your next town hall? Calendars can be decorate, informative and reassure volunteers that something is always going on. My favorite twist on the campaign calendar is featured above where "Can't get this day back" adds a delightful sense of urgency.

Phew, well! I set out to come up with 17 ideas, but now that I'm through writing that, I continue to brainstorm (a spot to sign up for GOTV shifts, issue talking points, pictures from past events...) You now have no excuse for blank walls in your field office ever again. Hope this helped!

Peace, Love and Giant Sign In Sheets,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Swing Statin' It

A conversation with my Ohio friends reminded me of this video. I usually don't care for The Onion, but this video from 2008 is a fun little morbid reminder to keep things in perspective.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ask An Election Nerd: What's the Deal with Yard Signs?

From the Tumblr: Why does everyone always make fun of yard signs on campaigns? What's with the negative connotation? I just started interning on a campaign this summer & can't build up the guts to ask, since it seems like such a dumb question.

From my e-mail: So signs don't vote. Research, trial and error, and general wisdom all seem to confirm that. So why do we still use them? In the campaign that I'm interning on, signs take up a small but significant amount of time, and a lot of my lowly intern work revolves around them. If signs don't vote, then why aren't campaigns putting the time and energy that signs take into canvassing or phone banking? And not to get into campaign finance too much, but at what point are signs more worth spending money on than lit, advertising or other things?

Obviously we have some confusion here. First off, yardsigns don't vote and they aren't proven to increase voter turnout. Yard signs would be a benign annoyance if they didn't take time, money and other resources away from campaign activities that do have an impact. Yardsigns can take a chunk out of a campaign budget that could otherwise be spent on direct mail, media, or voter contact. They take time away from field staff whose goals don't (or at least shouldn't) include yard sign distribution. Even more frustrating is the myth that yard signs influence the outcome of a campaign. Every organizer has rolled her eyes at the potential volunteer who claims they "don't have time to come in, but I have a yard sign" as if that excuses or mitigates a lack of participation. Every campaign manager has wasted precious hours on the phone with candidate's spouse, mother, or sometimes the candidate himself being harangued for a lack of yard signs when she should be spending that time talking to voters or raising money. To most modern campaign staff, yard signs are an outdated tool and activists insisting on their use to win a campaign is the equivalent of a patient's family insisting to a doctor that their family member be cured with leaches.

So why do we use them? If you know campaigns, planting yard signs is like wearing your favorite football team's jersey. It's fun to show your support, but no one really thinks it's going to influence the outcome of the game...unless you're crazy. Sometimes yard signs are there to placate people. We've all heard anecdotes about planting yard signs on the route from the candidate's house to his office, just so the staff doesn't have to hear complaints from his family anymore.

To me, yard signs are still so prominent in campaigns for what I call bagel and cream cheese reasons. I live in New York and if you come here and order a bagel and cream cheese you get one bagel with about a 1/2 a pound of schmear. Nobody wants that much cream cheese; it's disgusting. Yet every bagel place does it because it's how it's always been done. Even though most people wipe off some of the cream cheese, if a local bagel store stopped overstuffing its sandwiches, I can guarantee you people would complain and feel as if they were being cheated. Because one store does it, everyone has to do it. Same thing with yard signs. If we all stopped providing yard signs to our supporters, some people would make their own but most people wouldn't care. However, because the competition is doing it, we have to do it too. Although yard signs neither vote nor win elections it can be demoralizing for volunteers and activists if your entire town is covered in signs for your opponent. Yard signs and chum can work the other way and give your local activists a sense of cohesion and pride.

At least for the next few cycles, yard signs are here to stay, so how can we make the most of them? In the past, Republican campaigns and OFA notably have charged for signs and counted the money as contributions. On smaller campaigns, I have used yard signs as a volunteer perk (do a shift, get a sign). I like to think of yard signs as payment for the local community, as symbol of pride in an effort they've contributed to. But yeah, they are really freaking annoying, and that's why.

Hope I answered both your questions!!!

Campaign Love,

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Today in Voter Suppression

The Obama campaign is suing the State of Ohio to protect early voting. The Romney campaign is claiming that Obama is trying to infringe on the rights of military voters (who are currently the only ones allowed to vote early up to the day before the election) by disputing the laws because well...he is a liar. The lawsuit is being filed to extend early voting to EVERYONE including military families. It's the Republican voter suppression response of "I know you are but what am I?"

Read about what's actually happening here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Today In Voter Suppression

I was all set to write my own post on the subject but Ari Berman at the Nation basically nails it. No use reinventing the wheel. If you are wholly unfamiliar with what's going on in Pennsylvania check this out first.

The two-week trial challenging the constitutionality of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law ended today. Here’s what we learned from the proceedings. Suffice to say, Pennsylvania Republicans didn’t come out looking very good.

1. A lot of voters don't have valid voter ID. University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto, a witness for the plaintiffs (the suit was brought by the ACLU, the Advancement Project and other voting rights groups), found more than one million registered voters in Pennsylvania—12.8 percent of the electorate—don’t have sufficient voter ID. Moreover,379,000 registered voters don’t have the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, needed to obtain the right ID; 174,000 of them voted in 2008.

2. The state doesn't know its own law very well. During the debate over the law in the state legislature, Secretary of the Commonwealth Carole Aichele repeatedly stated that 99 percent of Pennsylvania voters had the right ID. A subsequent study by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation found that 758,000 registered voters, 9.2 percent of the electorate, lacked a state-issued PennDot ID. During the trial, Pennsylvania State Department official Rebecca Oyler testified that she calculated the “99 percent have ID” figure in less than 24 hours while lacking sufficient data from the department of transportation. When pressed on the specifics of the law and the number of people who lack voter ID, Aichele responded: “I don’t know what the law says.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was similarly clueless when asked what forms of ID besides state-issued ID are valid for voting purposes. “The other forms of ID can be student ID.” Corbett said. “We’ve been working with the nursing homes to get people new ID. It can be military ID. There’s two or three other forms—right now, off the top of my head, I don’t have it here in front of me.”

3. The state is unprepared to implement the law. Pennsylvania has allocated funds for only 75,000 “free” voter ID cards, even though the department of transportation found that ten times as many voters may lack valid ID. Nor is the state equipped to handle all of the people who will need to get ID. “There were 71 PennDot offices, but 13 of them were only open one day a week,” Slate’s Dave Weigel noted. “Nine Pennsylvania counties have no PennDot office at all.” Added thePhiladelphia Inquirer: “In recent visits to the Department of Transportation's offices, the witnesses said, they found long lines, short hours, and misinformed clerks, which made obtaining voter identification cumbersome, and in some cases impossible, for those who don't have supporting documentation.”

4. There is no voter fraud in Pennsylvania or nationally. At the beginning of the trial, the state offered this remarkable admission in a court filing: “There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.” Essentially, the state conceded that its central rationale for the voter ID law—stopping “voter fraud”—turned out to be moot.

5. The law will help Republicans. GOP House Leader Mike Turzai was on to something when he said that voter law ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Barreto testified that if the voter ID law had been on the books in 2008, Obama would’ve lost Pennsylvania by 200,000 votes, rather than winning by 621,000 votes.

6. The law is discriminatory. According to the department of transportation, 9.2 percent registered voters in Pennsylvania lack state-issued voter ID, but the number is 18 percent in Philadelphia, which is 44 percent African-American. A new study based on the state’s data finds that voters in predominately black precincts in Philadelphia are 85 percent more likely than voters in predominately white precincts to lack state-issued ID. Voters in Hispanics and Asians neighborhoods are also twice as likely to lack IDs relative to white voters.

7. Voters don't know about the law. According to Barreto, 86 percent of eligible voters in Pennsylvania posses a valid voter ID but 99 percent of registered voters believe they have the right ID. Only a third of registered voters are aware of the law (though maybe that’s changed as a result of the trial).“When will those people learn that their ID is not valid?” writes the Pennsylvania ACLU. “Most likely, when they show up to vote.”

8. Pennsylvania believes voting is a privilege, not a right. Said Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Patrick Cawley: "To be sure, voters do share some responsibility to obtain an ID and to get themselves to the polls. The law does not require the commonwealth to eliminate all inconveniences.” In other words, if the state law disenfranchises voters, it's the voters’ fault.

9. The legal battle isn’t over. Judge Robert Simpson has promised a ruling the week of August 13, but also said “take heart, I’m not the last level in this matter.” His decision is expected to be appealed to the state supreme court, which is currently split 3-3 between Democratic and Republican judges. If they deadlock, Simpson has the final word (unless the case goes to the Supreme Court).

10. The law shouldn’t stand. After observing the trial, many legal observers believe Simpson will issue an injunction against the voter ID law, as occurred with Wisconsin’s voter ID law. “The more I hear about the trial, the more convinced I am that a fair-minded judge (which this trial judge certainly appears to be) would be likely to issue a preliminary injunction barring the use of the i.d. requirement in the November election,” wrote UC-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen. Added Penda Hair of the Advancement Project: “We think this should be a slam dunk victory for plaintiffs which should result in a preliminary injunction.”