Virginia Young Democrats: Campaigning in the Time of COVID

Matt Royer, candidate for VAYD Campaign Director.

As we head into the 2020 General Election season, we are faced with new challenges on how to get the message of the Democratic party across and get the vote out in November to defeat Donald Trump. By now, we all have endured countless Zoom meetings, virtual happy hours, virtual town halls, and the like and have come to realize that while some of these aren’t the best, we do have options to stay connected during our time of social distancing.

I know all of us are hoping to be out of the woods by the time we are deep into campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nominee, but we always need to have those options in our back pocket to make sure we have contingency plans. I want to be able to tell you all that I have some crystal ball here that I can tell you exactly how the election will play out, but I don’t. What I do have are plans to help keep the Virginia Young Democrats involved with the election process, while maintaining safe health practices as we wait out the outbreak to die down if I am elected to be your next Campaign Director.

Investing Time into Virtual Phone Banking and Text Banking

We may not be able to go out door to door canvassing voters in the fall this year if we are still exhibiting these stay at home orders. However, that doesn’t put us out of the fight when it comes to being able to reach those voters. Campaigns today are investing more heavily into using Virtual Phone Banking through VAN and investing money into Peer to Peer Texting Tools like Hustle. The majority of us still have access to our phones and to high-speed internet access, even in our own quarantine hideouts. So why not use those to our advantage?

Regardless of whether or not we are in quarantine at that time, we should still be investing time and effort into these tools. Doing virtual campaigning in this manner makes it easier for folks to reach a high number of people in a short amount of time, makes it more accessible to those who cannot afford to travel even within the Commonwealth, and also makes it more accessible to those with disabilities that may not be able to knock doors. Not only that, but we have a huge task ahead of us in addition to the Presidency and ensuring that Virginia remains a solid blue state next year: Flipping the Senate.

Many of us young professionals are not going to be able to afford to fly out to Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Iowa, or Texas to campaign for flippable Senate seats halfway across the country or on the opposite coast. But what we can do is offer our time and effort from afar to help those Democratic nominees with being able to take some of the lift off of the boots on the ground to add to the effort from here in Virginia, without having to travel. Saves time, saves money, gets rid of McConnell: That’s a win-win-win.

Bringing Virginia Candidates to You at Home

No, I do not mean literally bringing each candidate individually to your own house. I’m talking about live streams and interactive virtual town halls that allow for all of our members to engage and hear from our Democratic Congressional Delegation during the election season. We are always so lucky to be able to hear from these leaders in person as a perk of being a part of Virginia Young Democrats. Our members shouldn’t have to miss out on that just because they’re stuck at home. We should be able to continue to bring this type of experience to them even if it’s only virtual.

Pushing for Vote by Mail in Virginia and Ballot Chasing

Over the past few weeks, we have seen many political leaders stand up and say that we need to have vote by mail options everywhere. On November 3, 2020, millions of Americans across the nation will be eagerly waiting to cast their ballot for the candidates seeking the Presidency, the US Senate, the House of Representatives, and along with other assorted state and municipal elections. However, should the pandemic continue until then, in-person voting would be next-to impossible while following the current guidelines set out by the Center of Disease Control.

Beyond public health benefits, vote by mail also strengthens our democracy by increasing the opportunity for all citizens to vote at their convenience. Currently in the United States, five states conduct their voting entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. 21 other states allow for smaller elections like school board and other jurisdictional races to be conducted by mail. This method of voting allows for the voter to do so without traveling outside of their home, expands the electorate by making voting easier and more accessible, allows for person with disabilities and the elderly population to have better access to ballots, and cuts down on wait time significantly for ballots since in some states it has take six hours for people to vote. Most importantly as it pertains to the current situation in the United States, it will allow for people to continue to demonstrate their right to vote without permitting them to convene in a place with 10 or more people. In 2020, voters in the US should not have to choose their health and well being or the right to vote. They should be able to have access to both equally.

We here at the Virginia Young Democrats should help with this effort by making sure all Virginians know that there is no-excuse absentee voting here in Virginia. The State Board of Elections has already allowed the use of social distancing as an excuse for an absentee ballot for the primaries and the general election and Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign this into law which would take effect on July 1. Regardless, we should be calling voters and urging them to request their absentee ballots so they can vote by mail, and then help the effort to follow up with those who have requested ballots, but not returned them.

Finally: Doing Whatever Possible to Put a Democrat in the White House

Think this one speaks for itself. No matter who the nominee is we need to get this done. If you want to know more about how we can stay involved in the process as progressives, read this article.

We don’t have to stop being active just because we can’t physically go out and campaign. The benefit for how connected we are everyday is that we can continue to make an impact on our elections even at a safe distance. We have the options, the passionate membership, and the know how to get this stuff done. I’m continuing to campaign here while we are continuing to practice social distancing and I hope that I can earn your vote for the Virginia Young Democrats Campaign Director this year.

Matt Royer is a member of the 8th Congressional District Committee, the 2020 8th Congressional District Convention Resolutions Chair, Vice President of the Arlington Young Democrats, member of the Northern Virginia Labor Federation, and candidate for Virginia Young Democrats Campaign Director.