A few weeks ago, I wrote about how it was so great to be phone banking again, and since then, I’ve been keeping it up, phoning about once a week for various campaigns. And last night I made the most fulfilling voter outreach call I’ve ever made, though on reflection, it was a bit bittersweet.
I was calling for Libby Schaaf, who’s running for Jean Quan’s City Council seat (I’m working on Libby’s campaign, though the calling was on my own time). It had been a bit of a frustrating evening. Most of the people on my list weren’t home and several of the people I did reach didn’t speak English so I had only had a couple of conversations with voters. I was starting to get a bit frustrated.
Then I dialed an 85 year old women. At first, she had a hard time hearing who I was calling for so I repeated myself slowly and then spelled Libby’s name. “Oh, Libby,” she responded, “I couldn’t find her on my ballot.”
I assured her Libby was on the ballot and that she just was a little ways down in the long list of candidates. She went to find her ballot and when she returned she still couldn’t find Libby. I told her to look below the mayor’s race, and she couldn’t find that either. She was certain that neither of these races were on the ballot and couldn’t understand why.
So I asked her to look at the second or third page. I explained it was a long ballot this year in Oakland. “There are three pages?” she asked, sounding perplexed, “I thought each page was for someone in my family, since we have three voters here.”
I walked her through the ballot and she was able to find and vote for Libby as I spoke with her on the phone. I encouraged her to look at the rest of the races and to vote the entire ballot.
She thanked me immensely and told me that if I hadn’t called, she might not have voted in Libby’s race or any of the races on the second or third page.
When I hung up, I felt incredible. It was so fulfilling to know that not only had I secured another vote for Libby but that I had helped a voter understand the new, long ballot, which is a real downside of ranked choice voting. I started dialing faster and was much more upbeat on the phone after this, and on the next call I got someone to sign up to volunteer for Libby.
But on my walk home from the phone bank, I thought about the call some more and though I still was overjoyed that I helped this woman vote, I started wondering how many other people are confused about the long ballot. Are others just filling out the first page and sending it in, neglecting the down ballot races, which are so incredibly important?
I really hope not, but if so, this makes phone banking, walking, and talking to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about this election even more important. Whether or not you’re not making a pitch for a specific candidate or measure, please talk to everyone you know about how ranked choice voting works and explain that the ballot will be several pages long.
Voting rates always drop further down the ballot, but let’s try to avoid a precipitous drop by spreading the word about the long ballot.