The 2020 elections are approaching and critical. While Biden enjoys an increasingly comfortable lead as more people hold Trump accountable for the effects of the pandemic, taking control of the US Senate is still imperative and daunting.
The Flip 2020 Project aims to shift the US Senate to a Democratic majority by targeting competitive races with mobile canvass teams. Small groups of pandemic compliant activists and canvassers can potentially make significant impacts on these elections. We can’t canvass door to door because of the pandemic, but there are still numerous approaches to getting out the vote in these key states. Several of the Flip 2020 canvassers ran a similar small vagabond canvass in 2018 in Tampa Florida which helped pass the restoration of felon voting rights in that state.
There are 4 teams which make up this project, and a number of current volunteers contribute to more than one team.
- The data and analysis team figures out where we should send canvassers.
- The fundraising team does outreach to both individual donors as well as organized groups, working to raise money and cover our costs.
- The logistics and networking team does networking and outreach to find affordable housing, welcoming political contacts, and paid canvass positions in selected states.
- The canvass team will go to the selected state and do covid appropriate GOTV techniques, including voter registration and absentee or mail in ballot logistics.
Only the Canvass team is physically on site, all other tasks can be done remotely and on a flexible schedule.
This is a mostly volunteer project. For canvassers, travel, room, and board are covered and some canvassers can be paid as needed. People with children are welcome as canvassers, and child-care will be provided (at no cost to the canvassers) on site.
We are especially seeking POC volunteers. We are also especially seeking volunteers who have lived and/or worked in areas we’re considering canvassing in, and/or who have strong connections (friends, family, political allies) in those areas.
Rough Project Timeline
- July – analysis and selection of location, recruit canvassers
- August – Fundraising, Networking for housing
- Mid August- Begin quarantine for canvass team
- August 20 (or earlier) – Select final canvass locations, finalize housing
- Sept 1 thru election day – on site covid compliant canvass OR the Missoula bunker option
The Data and Analysis Team:
This team will determine which races are worth our attention, which are logistically possible in terms of travel restrictions, and where we can make the most impact. The first phase of the analysis is reviewing the electoral situation and determining which races are in play for both senate and presidential races. This requires a bunch of different demographic and political data, described here. The full set of Senate elections are here. While we should monitor the red and blue “safe states” polls to see if opportunities or threats emerge, we will assume that the “swing states” below are our most likely destinations.
States where, as of July 2020, we think we have the best chances are:
- Alabama (senate only)
- Georgia X 2
- Kansas (senate only)
- North Carolina
- South Carolina (Senate only)
Other Factors to consider in determining Canvass States:
- Determining what forms of voter suppression target states suffer from and how we might work around them.
- How many people have registered for each party in the past two years.
- Turnout in 2018.
- A paid canvass which we can join in the state, if possible
- Smaller states are more likely to be influenced by our canvass at the Senate level.
- We are also looking at which house of representatives races are interesting (as a secondary consideration after the Senate/Electoral College considerations).
- It is also possible that referendum or other issues may play into our analysis and location decisions.
There are 4 principal sources of financial support for this project.
- Crowdfunding. We will raise funds from individuals who want to support this type of initiative. In 2018, most of the crowdfunding income came from friends and family of the canvassers. We will start earlier and promote more broadly, but these close ties are likely to be a significant fraction of the income earned. We will start developing a crowdfunding video with a target release date around Aug 1st.
- Self Funding What helped in 2018 was we did not have to raise travel, food, housing and salary for every canvasser. We were able to raise labor credits for communards who were with us, several of our people were financially secure and did not need salary and in several cases raised their own travel costs. We fed and housed everyone who participated without cost to them.
- Angels Angel funders are affluent individuals who are mission aligned with what we are doing and who are willing to support our work in a significant way because they agree with our approach and think we are a “good investment”. Angels are hard to find and even harder to court. We might have one, but this is not something to bank on, as the above funding sources actually are. If you think you might have an angel, let’s chat about how we might pitch them.
- Paid Canvass work. It is possible that since we are choosing strategic places to work, that other organizations with money will be there. In 2018, we were paid by SEIU/Hard Knocks to canvas in Tampa. Paid canvass work (funded by an external organization, not our own fundraising efforts) is less likely due to the pandemic but not entirely out of reach
Crowdfunding was presumed to be the principal technique for raising funds for this project, however other possibilities should be explored. A budget spreadsheet for the Flip 2020 project can be found here.
In 2018, the Tampa Team was able to support a dozen people for about $4K for most of 3 weeks, which was raised mainly through crowdfunding. We kept costs low by finding donated (free) housing, by finding paid canvass positions for those who needed to continue earning income, and because a number of canvassers were able to cover their own travel costs. The fundraising team will be looking to raise significantly more for 2020 because we’ll be canvassing for longer, because paid canvass work is less likely, and with a larger group.
This team will be responsible for outreach to hosts, donors and canvass volunteers. This team will use Facebook and other platforms to invite people into the dialog about where and why virtual and/or on site canvassers should be deployed, seeking support in those places. This team will put up our website, field questions, and build our staff. Support includes housing, food, transportation (both long distance to the campaign state and local), technical support and local orientation.
In a pandemic no one is going to come to their door, why do we need to be based in the state at all? Perhaps the most important aspect is that the canvassers should be together, creating an intentional community of sorts in the lead up to the election. With the Tampa Team in 2018 we were able to get significant focus and effort from the folks who had no distractions than to be working on the canvass. Also living together enables training and shared experience story telling.
While arguments can be made for having centralized remote teams which gather away from the target swing state, issues, contacts and real locals interested in the canvass all draw us back to the state of focus. Part of the virtual canvass will be training for volunteers and brainstorming techniques to connect with the electorate while keeping pandemic safe. Our guess is it looks some like old techniques we have used, like street theater, tabling and singing canvass and to this we will add new techniques like micro targeting social media and possibly the creative use of drones.
At this point the only one of these teams which can not be done remotely is the canvass work. It is also the case that the only team which has a likelihood of paid work is the canvass team. We are trying to keep costs down, but we will figure out a way to pay canvassers who need income so that they can leave other paid work to participate. People with children are welcome as canvassers, and child-care will be provided on site, as well as travel, lodging and food for children.
Alternative Canvassing Team: The Missoula Bunker Option
Things with the pandemic could get much worse. All possibility for face to face canvassing interactions, even if we are avoiding door to door work, could be deemed irresponsible, unsafe, and/or counter effective. In this case the elections will still happen, there will still be a need for phone banking, social media work, postcard parties, letters to the editor generation, and other “virtual canvass” activities. So instead of getting together in the place where the election is actually happening, we would isolate together in a very low covid location, responsibly self-isolate our group, and run a GOTV effort which depends on telecommunication technologies (and perhaps some direct mail). This is called the Missoula Bunker option, because we do actually have contacts in Missoula who would put a bunch of us up, Montana currently has very low covid infection rates (and requests out of state visitors quarantine for 2 weeks), and happens to be one of the Senate races we are interested in. [ex Governor Bullock is 4 points ahead of incumbent Republican Steve Daines.]
If you are interested in any of these aspects contact Paxus at Flip2020Project@gmail.com, or 541-505-0803.