Last week I attended a meeting of the incredible 49th District Action Council, a “non-partisan, non-hierarchical coalition organizing community power to take back political power across California’s 49th Congressional District”. The coalition’s 60+ members include Indivisible and Together We Will affiliates, Democratic clubs, the Sierra Club…pretty much everyone working to flip District 49. As a Swing SoCal Left project manager for CA-49, I went to represent our own group.
With no traffic on the weekends when most voter registration and canvassing take place, it’s as short as a forty minute drive from the southern tip of my deep blue home district of CA-33 to the deep red north edge of CA-49 where much help is still needed. Coming from my work in Van Nuys to my destination at the far end of CA-49 at rush hour took three hours.
I’m happy say it was more than worth my time.
When I arrived, the heads of several groups were doing tech training and learning how to use a voter data program called MiniVAN…More on this later.
Terra Lawson-Remer, founder and managing partner of the global research strategy and legal firm Catalyst, started the meeting right on time and kept it on time throughout.
We did an icebreaker exercise, heard a debrief on Republican Congressman Darrell Darryl Issa’s town hall, and listened to presentations from several groups about voter registration, protecting immigrants, and healthcare.
One of the things we heard about was a report on the Flip the 49th Community Organizing program that the Council has united behind. With two initial seven hour weekend sessions, the program has already begun training volunteers to be community organizers. Nearly a hundred volunteers attended each of the first two sessions. The community organizers will merge with the spine of the democratic challenger’s campaign after the candidate is chosen in the 2018 June primary. Here’s some pictures from the program kick-off.
As an impassioned but relative newcomer to canvassing and voter registration, the most interesting presentations for me were from “Neighbors in Action” and “Strike Teams!” These are two key components of the Community Organizing plan.
The Neighbors in Action program recruits captains (“Neighborhood Leaders”) from the groups that make up the Council to establish and foster an ongoing relationship with registered (Dem/Ind/Left-leaning) voters in the captain’s own neighborhood. They use the program I mentioned before, miniVAN, to manage walking lists and maps of registered voters. Access to this program and voter data comes from the SD County Democratic party. The Neighbors in Action effort will be vital in ensuring turnout of Dem/Ind/Left-Leaning voters use these maps to visit Democratic voters and make sure they are planning to vote in 2018.
Strike Teams! use a similar method, but instead of visiting just Democrats, they visit every door (in high value, targeted neighborhoods without a local Neighborhood Leader) in hopes of finding unregistered but eligible voters and signing them up to vote. Like Neighbors in Action, Strike Teams! use MiniVAN. In fact, all 60+ groups in the 49th District Action Council use the same account on the same program. This way they know what areas have already been covered, which have been claimed by another group intending to canvass there in the near future, and which have not been recently visited. The data that is gathered is used to append and correct that provided by the registrar’s office. All this data goes to a central repository so that after the democratic challenger is chosen in the 2018 primary, volunteers from all groups can unite behind Issa’s democratic challenger and know exactly which households to visit in order to get out the vote. Issa’s (misguided) supporters use the same method.
I was extremely impressed with the way the 60 or so groups with completely different approaches can put their egos aside and work together. One of the groups is even made up of disaffected Republicans who don’t support the direction Trump and Issa have taken their party. As Terra said, “Each group is independent. This is a mechanism to share across the district.”
Please check out the 49th Action Council’s website at \www.49thactioncouncil.org for more information.