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Voter & Civic Engagement

The 2020 election season saw voter and civic engagement take center stage nationwide. Since CA79 had not completely launched, we encouraged classmates to participate in CA73’s 2020 Voter & Civic Engagement initiative. See CA73’s Justice & Civic Engagement Initiative webpage, https://www.classacthr73.org/justice&civicengagement, for more information on that effort as well as future projects.

For HR79 classmates interested in working on these future projects or others related to voting and civic engagement, please email ClassACTHR79+vote@gmail.com or leave a message at (617) 299-6411 and a CA79 member will try to respond within a week. We’re especially interested in learning about classmates who currently hold elected office or who are running for elected office. And now for a report from one of our classmates:

HowShouldIVote2020 Served Undecided Voters With Facts—and Got Results: A Georgia Update

This election season, CA79 participant Andy Calkins led an effort to serve undecided voters with what Andy calls "reality-based, fact-driven guidance" about presidential candidates' positions on voters' priority issues.

HowShouldIVote2020 arose when Andy and his team recognized that in 2016, last-minute swing voters, operating on last-minute information (or disinformation), swung MI, WI, and PA—and therefore the 2016 presidential election.

What if there were a website, Andy and his group asked, that provided a calm, no-exaggeration place to explore the issues for voters who didn't usually pay close attention and who looked to the web for information?

With the help of HR classmates and others, the website launched in early October and ended up prompting nearly 70,000 last-minute deciders in ten swing states to click on the site and spend close to four minutes there—a lifetime in modern web terms—to read information about the candidates' positions on the economy, healthcare, COVID-19, the Supreme Court, gun rights, climate change, policing and violent crime, and education.

Visits to the website skyrocketed on November 2nd and 3rd. Ultimately, the website served 8,000 voters in Pennsylvania and 3,800 in Georgia alone.

Andy shared this letter sent to HowShouldIVote2020 by a first-time voter: "...I truly just wanted to make an educated decision on my vote this election with facts only. Your website allowed me to not only compare and contrast the two main candidates, but gave me the comfort of knowing it wasn't biased and it was strictly factually based."

Andy commented, "We don’t know whom she ended up voting for, and I kind of love that she didn't tell us. She was honoring the just-the-facts nature of the site. It's enough for us to know that she is now a well-informed voter who cared enough to find a place where she could discover the facts. That is the America that we recognize, the one that actually lives up to the ideals on which our country was founded."

As the nation shifted its focus to Georgia’s senate run-off elections on January 5, which would determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, Andy and his group launched a similar effort with HowShouldIVoteGA.org. The site attracted voters searching the web for answers to questions such as "How should I vote GA Senate races?" or "Loeffler vs Warnock?" Or on questions that went straight at the content of the unprecedented advertising avalanche that pelted Georgia voters in the two months leading up to January 5: "Are Democrats socialists?" or "Will Democrats defund the police?"

Ultimately, the site served more than 10,000 undecided Georgians, over twice the number served in the November elections. Since all of these web-searchers are very likely to vote, one way or another, each individual making what Andy calls “reality-based” choices with their votes actually counts double, since they’re taking a vote from the opposition. In races as close as Ossoff-Perdue or in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia in the Presidential election, the effort produced a potentially significant swing.

Andy summarizes: “Our slice of the voter-empowerment puzzle helps voters who are genuinely undecided or conflicted, turned off by anger and name-calling and vitriol, and looking (often at the last moment) for a reasonable voice that is prepared to consider both sides.”

Andy’s volunteers are in it for the long term: they’ve bought “HowShouldIVote” URLs for 2022, 2024, and 2028. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Andy at howshouldivote2020@gmail.com.

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