Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween on the Campaign

It's been a while since I posted, but let me tell you...the week leading up to an election at a campaign internship is BUSY! I've been going nonstop trying to keep up with all the responsibilities of the internship, my other jobs, classes, and sleep (I'm not even sure I remember what sleep is anymore!). But here's a quick recap of my experiences over the past couple days:

On Sunday I went back to our new location for another 10 hours! That's right, I said 10! It was one of the longest weekends I think I've ever had. I spent most of Sunday doing all of the same tasks that I had on Saturday. Organizing canvass packets, training volunteers, making voter information calls on HubDialer, calling potential volunteers using VoteBuilder or entering data in VoteBuilder. I did have a series of exceptionally awful calling experiences, my skin is pretty tough but ignorance is not one thing I tolerate well. The assumptions that people make about party association and our current leaders have not yet stopped surprising me. At the end of the night Sunday we packed everything up again and moved it back to the law office in town.

Since Sunday I've been in a couple of times and spent a lot of time on HubDialer. We are just continuing to push the Early Vote opportunity statewide. I also spent a significant amount of time on VoteBuilder recruiting volunteers for the HUGE Get Out the Vote Efforts that will be starting on Saturday. Once this kicks off we will no longer be working on the campaign specifically for John Gregg and Joe Donnelly. Our efforts will be targeted at Democrats in general and getting as many people to vote as possible.

I can't believe that I week from now I'll already be posting a debriefing blog! I knew this was a sprint internship, but the time literally seems to have passed in the blink of an eye!

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Long Haul

My body wasn't exactly thrilled to be up early on such a beautiful Saturday morning as yesterday, but somehow I dragged myself down to the Union Hall. Once I got here I could feel the energy! This weekend is the dry-run for our Get Out the Vote efforts. Every county in Indiana will be participating in GOTV next Saturday through Election Day on November 6th!

As I mentioned in my last post, my job for the day was being a "canvass captain." This meant that my responsibilities included organizing all of the walk packets for volunteers and explaining the canvassing process to them. I was pretty nervous because it was only a couple weeks ago that I went on first canvass. I didn't want to miss anything or confuse anyone about what they were supposed to ask. When each volunteer arrived I assigned them a packet and had them sign it out. Then I went through all the maps in the packet and ran through the script with each person. After that I sent them on their way, armed with lots of literature on the candidates and my phone number with any questions.

When each person returned it was my job to count the number of doors they knocked and how many people answered along with the responses of all the questions. I entered all the data in a program called Vote Builder. There were three shifts of canvassers today so I went through the same spiel quite a few times.

In the down time between canvass shifts and entering data I was on HubDialer making the same calls I've been making for the past couple weeks.

Basically what it comes down to is that I put in a little over 12 hours. It looks like I'm in it for the long haul. At least the long haul of this campaign.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Take Down to Set Up

As the election draws nearer, my time spent at the campaign office is increasing! Tonight wasn't too long, but tomorrow will be!

I spent an hour on HubDialer tonight, just continuing to get the word out and encourage people to take advantage of the Early Vote in Indiana. My theory is that the closer we are to November 6th, the angrier people will be when I call them. Bring it on, world! I'm ready to be reprimanded.

When I got done calling I was given the wonderful task of helping tear down our pop-up office. The regional campaign has been working out of a local law office for the past several weeks but now we're moving to the local Union Hall for a more volunteer-friendly set up and bigger venue. Packing up the office meant boxing up most of the campaign literature, unplugging all the computers and printer, accounting for all the cell phones and chargers, gathering all the yard signs, making sure we had all the general office supplies we needed...and putting all of it in my car. The Union Hall is a little bit more than a 10 minute drive from where we have been working so it wasn't a major move, but it was still work!

When we got to the Union Hall my boss and I unloaded the car and began reorganizing. The building seems like it's going to be an awesome location for the last next week and a half of the campaign. As the name probably gives away, it is the union headquarters for the local auto industry. It's full of history!

Anyways, tonight we spent some time setting up several calling stations for volunteers who will be working two or three hour shifts on HubDialer tomorrow. I also spent some time organizing my station for tomorrow. I'll be a canvass captain tomorrow! That means that I will be directing the volunteers who will be walking the streets like I did on my first day. I'm excited to have some more responsibility. It's going to be a very long day spent directing people and entering data into spreadsheets, but I'd be lying if I said I was dreading it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Calling Like It's My (Unpaid) Job

Two weeks, guys! Exactly two weeks from today is THE day I've been waiting for! I feel like I'm counting down to my birthday, except I'm more excited about this.

Last night was my third night of calling for the IDPCC and most of my calls seemed to blend together! I found that the main response I got was anger. With the election getting closer and closer the political pressure is definitely being laid on the voter. And they're tired of it. I can't blame anyone for wanting it to be over; it is exhausting.But even for all the tiresome propaganda and rhetoric, this is still important!

I think it's easy to just be tired of it and forget the reason  for all the craziness. I understand being annoyed and frustrated. What I don't understand is choosing to completely disregard your privilege to have a voice in society. I've found that so many people have opinions and want to tell you all about them, but when it comes to voting people suddenly don't want to be involved. What is it about having to pick between candidates that makes people so weary? I know there aren't clear answers to my questions, but I'm working to understand these decidedly un-involved constituents.

So far, I'm taking a lot away from this internship professionally, but there is one thing I'm taking from this personally: the people making those political calls at the most inconvenient times are volunteering their time because they believe in the candidates. I won't hang up on volunteers or belittle them. Being courteous is not that difficult.

Favorite call: A man who launched into a rant about how he didn't want Wal-Mart to buy this election like it did the last one. (Maybe I'm uninformed...but I had no clue what he was talking about...)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Say What You Need to Say (and Nothing More)

What have I been doing the past couple of days? Just trying to keep my head on straight! I knew taking on this internship would be crazy, but man, am I pressed for time! Don't worry, Mom, I'm loving every extremely scheduled second of it.

Last night I spent another three hours making calls. It was basically more of the same responses that I talked about in my last post. The environment in the office was different this time though. On Monday there were only two volunteers making calls along with my boss and me, but yesterday there were four! And let me tell you, they were hilarious. They were all community women and they made me laugh the two hours they were there. They really weren't understanding the concept of HubDialer and kept hanging up there phones after each call (HubDialer automatically connects to you to the next caller, so ideally you only make one phone connection to the website for the entirety of the evening). My favorite part was the fact that Debby and Pam kept looking at the screens of other people and commenting on the names of the voters. A couple of times they were connected to people they knew from the community and recognized their voices. I promise I wasn't laughing at them; they were laughing, too. 

One call I made stands out quite a bit. If you remember from my last post I mentioned how disheartening I find it that Republicans and Democrats aren't willing to speak to each other, well one voter I spoke with last night reminded me of a similar issue. The woman on this particular call told me that she was a registered Republican and I told her that was fine with me, which I think surprised her. She said something to me that I think most Americans can agree with: we are tired of negative campaign ads! Turning on the TV right now almost feels like an ambush! This voter let me know that she didn't care what Mourdock thought about Donnelly's positions or what John Gregg thought about Congressman Pence's political history. "I want to know what Donnelly thinks about Donnelly!" I couldn't agree more. Criticizing your opponent is not the goal of a campaign. Let the voter analyze all the candidates. Instead of emphasizing what other candidates have done wrong in the past, tell the voters what you are going to do right! You don't need to tell us anything but your own views. I knew I wasn't the only one with this opinion, but it's always reassuring to hear someone else articulate it.  

One last story for you today: I had one man last night quite literally tell me the entire story of his divorce. The average call is probably about 40 seconds long. This one was 5 minutes. I'm not exaggerating! I told him who I was and then asked how he was doing...oops. He said, "Well....I'm pretty depressed..." and proceeded to launch into the story of how his wife got a tummy tuck and then left him in August. I didn't know what to do! I listened to him for 5 minutes before I could politely tell him I was sorry that he was struggling and get off the line. 

Also, the title of this post is alluding to the John Mayer song!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Calls on Calls on Calls

Man, oh man. Why do I feel like I've been on the phone for three hours? Oh wait, it's because I HAVE been on the phone for three hours. Just doing my job and trying to get the word out.

Today's experience was slightly less intimidating, but only slightly. The blitz calling I've done in the past was generally to people who were excited to hear from me (i.e. students who are currently applying to Anderson and I call to remind them what we need to process their applications). Today was different.

Using a website called HubDialer.com I literally called hundred of people tonight. The Democratic party has paid for the use of HubDialer in Indiana because the race between Joe Donnelly and Richard Murdock is so close. It's a really nifty program that sifts through a bunch (I'm not sure how many) of phone numbers at once and sorts out all the lines that are busy or aren't being answered, and then people like me are suddenly connected with a voter on the other end of the line. And that's when the magic happens.

Each conversation went a little something like this:
        Me: Hi, is Diona available?
        Voter: Yes, this is she.
        Me: Hi, Diona. My name is Mackenzie and I'm a volunteer with the Indiana Democratic Party. How             are you this evening?
       Voter: (Varied answers, usually along the lines of "I'm fine," or "I'm old.")
      Me: Well great, I'm just calling to find out if you're planning to support Joe Donnelly in the race for the US Senate seat and John Gregg as Indiana's next Governor?

The responses that I got to that question were basically the same as the ones that I got when I went canvassing yesterday. Except for the fact that people are much bolder when they don't have to look you in the eye. I had a couple people tell me that I was making a mistake in volunteering for the Democratic party and that I should scrap the list I was using because it obviously wasn't accurate if they were getting a phone call.

While this response isn't all that surprising to me, it does bother me. One of the many reasons that I want to be involved in politics is because I'm tired of this partisan animosity. It would be wonderful if people were even willing to talk to each other! I'm not saying you have to agree on ideology, just agree to a conversation! More upsetting than people who were so set in their ways that they hung up on me after hearing the word "Democrat," were the people who listened to what I had to say but told me they didn't care or didn't know. It's heartbreaking to me that we live in a country where we are given the right to actively participate and so many people choose not to.

What am I taking away from today's calling experience? I will never hang up on a political volunteer again, I am so sure that my goal is to inform people about politics, and lastly, you can't take life to seriously.

Here are my two favorite conversations from tonight:

When calling an elderly woman she responded, "I'm sorry, what credit card are you calling about?" "No ma'am, I'm with the Democratic Party." "......what kind of party? I don't like parties much. *click"

When calling a middle aged woman, "Oh, I can't vote because I'm on probation." 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Canvassing On a Sunday

Today was my first official day as an IDPCC intern! And I spent this blustery, fall Sunday knocking on doors. Like I said, this isn't the most glamorous internship, but I did enjoy it.

When I went to our pop-up office today I had no idea what to expect. My boss told me that we would be canvassing but I didn't know where we would be, how many people would be there, or what I was supposed to say. I learned the answers to all of these questions upon arrival!

Our team today was only three people and we each split up to canvass on our own. It felt a little like trying to ride a bike for the first time. If you know me, you probably realize that knocking on the doors of strangers is definitely outside my comfort zone, so today was interesting. We didn't just go door-to-door in every neighborhood as I had initially thought. I was given a list of 75 names and addresses along with a map and a rough script.

My first couple of houses were pretty rough, but after that I felt like I got into the swing of things. Yeah, I stuttered a few times and probably made a fool of myself, but overall I feel good about how the day turned out. The responses that I got from each house varied, but I would  categorize them in four different groups.

Enthusiastic Democrats: These people were immediately excited when I told them I was interning with the Indiana Democratic Party. They couldn't thank me enough for getting out and informing people about the candidates and issues. These people were DEFINITELY voting for Joe Donnelly and John Gregg. I had one of these Enthusiastic Democrats talk my ear off for twenty minutes. She was precious and I was happy to listen, but I had a lot of houses to get to!

Skeptical Independents: When I told these folks who I was representing as I knocked on their doors they narrowed their eyes a little bit. They politely listened to what I had to say, but their responses to my questions were definitely guarded. I felt like some of them gave me the answers I wanted to hear and others gave me the answers they didn't think I wanted to hear. They were all nice enough.

Privately Political: These are the people who refused to talk to me when I told them I was there to talk about the upcoming election. I don't have anything against anyone who is more prone to keep their political beliefs to themselves, but some people are downright rude! Fortunately, I've developed a pretty thick skin for these people. Who knew that working in retail would be so beneficial?

Right to be Right: Anderson is, not surprisingly, a red town. Of the 75 doors I knocked on today there were only a small handful of Republican voters. This was on purpose, of course. (The purpose of today's work was to reach out to Democratic or undecided voters and encourage them to take advantage of the early vote.) All of the Republican voters I encountered were very polite and kindly answered my questions. I did feel like I saw a little pity in the eyes of a few people though.

The best response of the day goes to the elderly woman who told me she wasn't sure about John Gregg because she wasn't sure what he was hiding in his mustache.

All in all, I would say that canvassing was a positive experience for me. I was pushed to do something I'd never done before and I did it by myself! It's been a long Sunday, but I'm ready to take on the rest of the week.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

It's Just Beginning

So, I've started a blog. People do it all the time, for all different reasons. But why did I just start this one? I've recently been given the opportunity to start my first internship. In order to better help myself process all that will be involved and to share my experiences with friends, family, and all of the internet, I have decided to blog about it! We live in the information age, after all.

Where am I interning?
    I am working on the Indiana Democratic Party - 2012 Coordinated Campaign (IDPCC).

What does that mean?
    I am working on the 2012 campaign for Joe Donnelly and John Gregg.
    My official duties include:
           • Organizing and assisting with voter outreach
           • Assisting campaign staff at political and community events

           • Assisting Field Staff with planning and implementing a field plan
           • Recruiting and maintaining active volunteer database
           • Assisting campaign staff with on-the-ground strategy

No, but really, what does that mean?
    I'm not entirely sure what all of that means yet because I start tomorrow. BUT, the general feeling I have is that I will be the lovely voice at the other end of all those political phone calls and I'll be the smiling face knocking on your door to ask if you're registered to vote. It isn't the most glamorous internship in the world, but I'm already seeing the rewards.

Rewards?
    It's true! I've already enjoyed an internship perk! Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the Hoosier Common Sense rally in Indianapolis. I saw Bill Clinton! It was awesome!

That's all I have for now! But I plan to update this frequently throughout the next 24 days until the elections!