Guest post by Sam Novey and Tasmin Swanson at Baltimore Votes
Baltimore Votes has a simple mission. We want every voter, in every precinct, to vote in every election. Back in mid-March, when it became apparent that the upcoming election was going to be radically altered by the spread of covid-19, we sent out a call for our community members across the city to join us in coming up with fun, creative, and safe ways to ensure that we’re still working to make that dream a reality. Over the course of two community brainstorm sessions, Baltimore City residents generated a wealth of ideas for how we can all work together to cultivate an inclusive, celebratory culture around voting, even in these unprecedented times.
If you’re stuck at home wondering what to do for the elections, here are five things you can do now to stay engaged.
1. Stay Informed Locally
Getting news from national media outlets right now can be overwhelming. With stories coming at you from every state, Maryland-specific news may end up buried. In order to ensure you’re getting the most relevant information, build time into your day to check local news sites such as Baltimore Sun, Maryland Matters, and WYPR.
During Civic Engagement Week, Strong City will be sharing resources from a number of local organizations including Black Girls Vote, No Boundaries Coalition, the Baltimore City Department of Planning, and, of course, Baltimore Votes. All of these organizations have active social media presences and are sending out election updates in real time. Subscribe to their newsletters or follow them on social media to stay in the know on all things related to the Baltimore elections.
2. Get Your Neighbors Involved
We may not be able to hold spring block parties or monthly neighborhood association meetings, but it’s still possible to get the folks who live around us involved in the election. Pick up the phone and call five people from your street to let them know about the latest election update. Before the call is over, set them a challenge to reach out to five more people and spread the news. If we each call five people, who call five more, who call five more, pretty soon we’ll reach the entire neighborhood. This organic phone tree is also a good way to reach people who may not be digitally connected.
If you’re not comfortable speaking on the phone, you can also write a short piece for your neighborhood association’s newsletter or Facebook page. If you need help drafting the message, reach out to us at Baltimore Votes! We’d be happy to help, or point you in the direction of reliable information.
3. Go Virtual
With our whole lives moving online, you’re probably already using video conferencing apps suchas Zoom or Google Hangouts to keep in touch with your book club, faith community, or
sports team. Use this same technology to gather a group of friends together and talk politics. If you’re looking to create an informal environment, you could write out a list of questions and pose them to your guests to spark conversation. Check out Civic Dinners for ideas.
If you’re looking to reach more people, consider organizing a Vote By Mail 101 webinar on behalf of your neighborhood association, faith group, or PTA. Baltimore Votes has created PowerPoints that anyone can download and use with information about the April 28 Special Election and about how voters with disabilities can ensure their vote counts. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a copy of either PowerPoint.
4. Help Vulnerable Individuals
During the pandemic, we’ve seen many examples of family, friends, and neighbors stepping up to care for those around them. The next time you pick up groceries for your next-door neighbor who is juggling kids and work, or run to the pharmacy to refill a prescription for an elderly family member, or just call to check in with others, make sure to ask them about the election. If they need help updating their address on the Board of Elections website, offer to stay on the phone with them during the process. When you’re ready to walk to the mailbox to drop off your ballot, call your neighbors and offer to bring their ballots as well (just make sure they have signed and sealed it before they give it to you). This will also serve as a gentle reminder for others to vote!
5. Get Crafty “Making art reduces stress, even if you kind of suck at it” (as this HuffPost headline so charmingly puts it), and this is definitely a moment when we could all use an outlet for stress. Whether you’re looking for an activity to do with your kids, on your next video call with friends, or to tackle on your own, you can combine art, stress-relief, andelection enthusiasm into one fun hour.
Get crafty with any artistic medium. Break out the paints—or repurpose your boring work pens—to make a sign to hang in your window proudly declaring that a voter isolates here. Take to the kitchen and decorate a home-baked cake with the face of your favorite candidate (and send them a picture, candidates could use a giggle right now). Write a song or short story imagining a distant future in which the aftereffects of the pandemic can still be felt in our political system, for better or worse. And once you’re done, share your artistic creation and challenge othersto get involved aswell. You can post on social media, or for a more private option, send a text to a few friends.
These are just a few of the many ideas out there for what you can do from home to stay engaged this election season. Tag us on social media @BaltimoreVotes and let us know what you’re doing!