Thoughts on getting out the vote and our impact.
Thoughts on getting out the vote and our impact.
It’s only been five weeks since Blue Action Democrats announced the Two Million Texans Project, with our first training a week later, and Texas is already on the way to building the largest relational organizing network in the country. We have ramped up our outreach with nightly virtual trainings, joint trainings with sister organizations like Mothers Against Greg Abbott, and in-person trainings in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston… with more on the way. As of today, we have almost 85,000 voters in our network, added one-by-one by democrats who GSD in the Reach app. YOU can help us hit the magic number -- Two Million -- that will boost Democratic turnout in safe districts, get unlikely voters to the polls, activate voters in rural counties, and help youth activists grow their network exponentially to make a difference this November and beyond for Democrats on the ballot. If you aren’t a member of the project yet, don’t wait to join -- the rubber hits the road when early voting begins next month! Joining is easy: 1) Sign up 2) download the Reach App 3) bring your phone to an online or in-person training.
CALLING Mommas of College Students in Texas. (or young adults living away from home)
Your student needs to decide as soon as possible WHERE THEY WILL VOTE in November.
1) Are they going to drive home the ONLY weekend of Early Voting? October 29-30? If they decide to go this route, read on in case they change their minds.
2) Are they going to REGISTER AT THEIR COLLEGE ADDRESS and VOTE at school? If so, go to RegisterTexas.com and fill out a form to update their address. I just did this. I printed the form with my student's college address as their new address and I'm mailing the printed form AND an envelope with postage to mail the form to the local registrar. New forms must be postmarked by October 11. https://vrapp.sos.state.tx.us/index.asp
3) Are they going to VOTE BY MAIL? This is a much trickier process than the last cycle. If your student lives out of state, you need to complete this form NOW. Here are the step-by-step instructions along with a link to print the form to apply for a mail-in ballot. Deadline to apply for mail-in ballot is October 28.
** Is your student on a study abroad semester? It is a different process/application for voters who live outside the country. They should NOT use the regular application but the Federal Post Card Application.
It’s for military and overseas voters and guarantees them more protections including receiving ballots by email 45 days in advance of elections. It can filled out at www.votefromabroad.org, and they vote using the address where they last resided. Democrats Abroad is here to help as well!
For those voting by mail within the US, follow these instructions:
To receive a mail-in ballot, the student must be registered to vote in the same county where they want to vote.
Step One: Complete the application for a mail-in ballot
1. Download the form.
English - Travis County
Spanish- Travis County
2. Fill out the form.
Mail the form to your county elections department
All forms have to be submitted by mail, no exceptions.
Regular mail: Travis County Clerk, Elections Division
PO BOX 149325
AUSTIN, TX 78714-9325.
The form must be received by October 28. Don't wait!
IF you FED Ex your form use this address(FedEx, UPS, USPS Express or Priority Mail, etc.):
Travis County Election Division
5501 Airport Blvd, Suite #100
Austin, TX 78751-1410
Additional County Information:
Bexar Vote by Mail: https://www.bexar.org/3271/Vote-by-Mail
Harris Vote by Mail: https://www.harrisvotes.com/Voter/lang/en-US#VoteByMail
Dallas Vote by Mail: https://www.dallascountyvotes.org/absentee-voting/
Tarrant County Vote by Mail: www.tarrantcounty.com/en/elections/Early-Voting-Information/Voting-by-Mail.html
El Paso Vote by Mail: https://epcountyvotes.com/voter_information/civilian_ballot_by_mail
or google search Your county + Vote by mail
Step Two: Getting your ballot and making it count
You will be mailed an absentee ballot in October. Make your selections and then carefully follow these steps.
First, before you seal the envelope, provide BOTH your Driver's License and last four numbers of your Social Security. (see image below)
Add your phone number and email below that, so if there are questions, elections officials can contact you.
Then, seal the envelope.
IMPORTANT: SIGN the ballot envelope with the same signature you used on your application form. The number one reason ballots are rejected is a failure to sign!
The ballot should be mailed back to your County Clerk and received by November 8 (election day).
Pro Tip: Mail your ballot by Halloween!
Track your ballot: You can track your ballot once it's mailed to see if it's been received. (This is for Travis County.) The Texas Secretary of State also has a ballot tracking system.
Don't want to deal with all of these forms and hoops? Have your student register to vote where they go to school and make sure they know when and where they can vote on or near campus. Their campus Democratic group will be able to register them to vote locally. However, they will no longer be able to vote in Travis County elections (local races, state house, congressional rep, etc.)
RegisterTexas.com -- If you want to vote in person at college, you must register at your college address. This site helps you complete the registration form, but you must sign it and mail it back in order to be registered. Deadline is October 11. Don't delay!
Register2Vote.org - If you want to check your registration or re-rergister at your college address. There is a provision for mailing the form directly to your apartment or dorm for your signature. But you have to sign and return it!
-- Not sure you're registered? Click here to verify your voter registration.
Eanes ISD Case Study
Texas Blue Action Democrats, in partnership with Safe Schools For All, targeted a handful of school districts for the May election. One of those districts was Eanes ISD.
We invested the majority of our resources in the Eanes district. We have a Blue Action chapter that has been working diligently to build out our year round neighborhood organizing model in that area since January. We knew this district was going to be a doozy with more than $100k pouring in from right wing PACS.
We spent 4 weekends block-walking in five precincts: 320, 321, 322, 326, and 327. We won every precinct we organized except 321. Both right wing challengers live in that precinct.
The block walking impacted voter turnout drastically.
In the non-targeted precincts, turnout was 21.42%.
In the precincts we targeted, turnout was 32.59%.
In this chart you can see how in the precincts we targeted, our candidates either won the majority of the votes or came very close. Ellen Balthazar did an average of 2% better in the targeted precincts and Heather Sheffield did 1% better.
The win margins in both contests were close - just a few hundred votes determined the outcome.
Using trained leaders, proper targeting, good messaging along with proper tools and organizational efficiency made a difference in these races.
Most importantly, the work of voter contact in these hyper-local elections builds a year-round organization that voters come to rely on. That infrastructure will turn out Democratic voters in every election.
None of our the other Districts we targeted had this type of organizing infrastructure: chapter leadership, trained leaders, engaged volunteers, and four weekends of block walking.
It can not be built over night but the data doesn’t lie. IT WORKS!
Stay tuned for the school board races we are targeting next. We are doubling down for November and organizing starts now. If you want to organize your community to make a difference in November- let us know. We have to tools and resources to help!
Please consider making a donation to support our work. We are competing with right wing PACs that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on school board races.
Editor's note: Stefan is a block captain in Precinct 366 in Southwest Austin.
How long have you been involved in politics/activism?
My political activism dates from the mid-1970s, when
I decided to run for the local school board in Centralia, IL. I was teaching sociology and political science courses at Kaskaskia College and was approached to run for the Centralia School Board. My campaign was chaired by a former student and emphasized the need to integrate public education, which was segregated by where residents lived. That campaign and my service on the school board provided an incentive for greater political involvement.
You've been a member since our very first meeting. What drew you in? Kept you coming back?
I had met Carrie Collier-Brown through my involvement in campaigns, and my faith in her abilities drew me to the first meeting. I had tried another organization but found it to be more of a debating society than an organization to build efforts for political change. Attending the first meeting, hearing the club’s motto for the first time, and meeting the people involved, I thought, “This is where I belong.” I keep coming back because my conception of the organization and the people involved is confirmed at each meeting and with each activity planned by the group. GSD!
How long have you been block walking? What advice would you give to those who are hesitant to knock on doors?
I walked blocks when I ran for the school board in Centralia. I became a serious block walker in 2008. The political science literature affirms block walking as the most effective campaign activity. I walk my Ausiedoodle and Labradoodle every morning in my neighborhood. Most neighbors know my dogs and me. I feel comfortable approaching them, talking politics and candidates with them, and sharing my passion for politics as an avenue for significant change towards the vision of “a more perfect union.”
For those who hesitate to knock on doors, I encourage first-timers to team up with someone who is experienced, take turns knocking doors, start in your immediate neighborhood, and know that most people are willing to listen and have respect for your passion to include them in the political process. Though daunting at first, each door becomes easier as you become more familiar with the process, make a connection with the resident more quickly, and experience the joy that comes when you recruit new members of the group. It’s a humbling and gratifying experience.
Where would you like to see the club in five years?
In five years, I would expect to see the membership expanded greatly, to see similar clubs created in other areas of Austin and in other counties in Texas, and to see the club’s reputation as a model for other organizations grow exponentially. Technological changes in canvassing and communications should be the hallmark of the club’s future. As the population of Austin changes, with frequent changes in neighborhood residents, I would hope that the club develops the ability to track the residential changes and to bring new residents into the club.
By Sarah Traugott
This is where you belong by Melody Warnick
I’ll admit that in the days, months and years since the 2016 election I’ve often wondered if I was doing myself, and particularly my young family, a disservice by living in a red state.
Despite all the things we love about Austin, the insidious conservative backlash of 2016 (with legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, First amendment rights and human rights) had me re-evaluating my sense of place attachment and connection to my community. Like most people, I indulged in some magical thinking that everything would be better if I lived somewhere else…some place more beautiful, more progressive, more tolerant, more blue. But as every good Texan knows by this point in the long, hot summer: the grass isn’t any greener on the other side of the fence; it’s only greener where you water it.
So I sought advice where I always do: in books! Melody Warnick’s really smart, well researched and persuasive book, This is where you belong, showed me there is a lot I can do right here! I can both change my perceptions about my community and actively effect the changes I want to see take place.
Her advice, it turns out, is something that I was doing instinctively by joining groups like Blue Action Democrats:
1. Lace up your sneakers. (Take a walk around your neighborhood to knock on doors.)
2. Say Hi to your neighbors. (I’ve had many terrific conversations with my neighbors and even folks in neighboring communities about our shared political predicament and how we need to engage in positive change.)
3. Do something fun! (I’ve attended picnics, parties and community building gatherings all over Austin to raise money and support for Democratic candidates.)
4. Volunteer! (Volunteer Deputy Registrar…it's in the name! Volunteer at the Democratic HQ on Old Fredericksburg Road. Volunteer to write postcards, throw a fundraising party, etc.)
5. Get More Political. (See above!)
6. Eat Local. (Torchy’s breakfast tacos before block walking!!)
This book, and reflecting about how we water the grass under our own feet to make it greener (and hopefully blue-er) is what’s saving my life this month…what’s saving your life?
Tell us what's saving your life right now. Drop a summary and photo to
Editor's note: Southwest Austin wasn't always blue. Barb Colvin was one of the first Democratic precinct chairs in SW Austin to organize her precinct with Block Captains. As Democratic chair of Precinct 354 (Travis Country) for about a decade, her grass roots organizational efforts were absolutely instrumental to turning her precinct into a Democratic stronghold, as well as setting an example for others neighborhood-level organizing.
What was Travis Country, Precinct 354, like politically when you first became the precinct chair?
Bob and I moved to Texas to be near our daughters and granddaughters in 1997 after I retired from practicing law in Illinois. In 1999 we moved to Travis Country in Precinct 354. Although I had always been a faithful voter, I had never been involved in politics; but when George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, I knew I had to do something. So I asked some Dems I knew from Austin Newcomers to join me in volunteering at the TCDP office. From that grew the women’s organization Women for Good Government (WGG) and my efforts in Precinct 354.
I did some research and learned that Precinct 354 is large— it has about 4800 registered voters. A map showed the borders of my Precinct, and from Glen Maxey I got a list of voters (in 2004 the Voters Activation Network did not exist). Info from the Travis County Election site showed that in 2000, Precinct 354 Republicans voted 18% straight ticket versus Democrats voted 11% straight ticket; Bush got 56% v. Gore 34%; Rs won all down ballot races except for Lloyd Doggett (US Congressman) and Gonzalo Barrientos (then State Senator) and a few judgeships. It was thought by TCDP to be a reliably Republican stronghold.
How quickly were you able to organize your precinct - what was that like?
The Precinct 354 organization model was made up as we went along, although I attended several workshops along the way and found some good stuff from Colorado. The first thing I learned about Precinct organizing is that you can’t do it alone. I found about 20 enthusiastic yellow dogs (a term I’d never heard, but soon learned was pronounced “YELLA — yella dogs”), and we set to work. We divided the precinct into 43 Blocks and looked for Block Captains for each Block. The BC job was: 1. Find Democrats, and 2. Get them to the polls. We came up with a detailed BC handbook and Andy Brown (TCDP Chair) asked us to write the handbook for Precinct Chairs.
Which election did 354 flip?
In 2004, after working a few months, Precinct 354 Rs still won the most straight party votes and most down ballot races, but by smaller margins than in 2000 (see above). But In 2006 (off year election), Ds turned the tables and won the straight party vote by 8% as well as a number of down ballot races. Dems didn’t field candidates in many judicial races. In 2008 we hit our stride in P354 -- Ds won the straight party vote by 30%, plus almost every race in which they fielded a candidate. Rs didn’t field candidates in most of the judicial races.
Over 500 Dems attended the Precinct Convention and 69 of us represented P354 at the County Convention. But I think the biggest high for me was in September, 2008 when we organized our first COMING HOME picnic and 300 P354 Democrats attended. People looked around in disbelief, saying “I thought I was the only Democrat in the neighborhood". Except for one year we’ve had a picnic every year since. (This year's picnic is Sunday, September 29.)
How do you feel about being held up as the "example" of how to organize a precinct?
I am so proud of the work of literally dozens of Block Captains, Steering Committee members, everybody who has pitched in with block walking, delivering flyers, suggesting great ideas, and served on committees. I want to thank our Picnic Angel, Jerry Walker, our great Precinct 354 Chair since 2014, Lynn Kurth, and most of all, the Democratic voters who have stood in lines, sometimes for hours, to turn Precinct 354 Blue since 2006 — and kept us there all these years!
What is it like to see SW Austin become a solidly Democratic area?
A dream come true! Many thanks to Blue Action Dems!
Are you ready to become a block captain? Contact your precinct chair - it is easy and fun -- and will make a difference in the next election! Join Blue Action Dems to support our work in getting more Democrats elected.
Paul Kurth and Barb Colvin at the annual Precinct 354 Picnic.
On August 11, 20 Blue Action Democrat volunteers joined forces with Austin Allies and Hindu Charities of America to assemble over 1300 backpacks full of school supplies for underprivileged kids in AISD, Manor ISD, and Refugee Services of Texas-Austin.
Some volunteers took their positions at four assembly lines, providing items to fill the backpacks to specification...
...while some volunteers carried and filled backpacks through the line...
...while some volunteers performed quality control to ensure that no items were missing!
Finally, the finished backpacks were loaded into vehicles to be whisked off kids headed back to school. Check out this load of backpacks headed to Refugee Services of Texas-Austin!
While it started out crazy (like most volunteers events), the leadership team put us to work and we made it happen. It was heartwarming and comforting to come together with an incredibly diverse group of people, all making a difference in our community!
Thanks so much to Erika Nowlin for coordinating the event and everyone who joined us to GSD!!
Blue Action Democrats Social and Service Committee
By Jennifer Voss
Chair, Precinct 339
I met Phyllis Fitzgerald-Morris nine years ago at her home while attending my first neighborhood association meeting she hosted with her husband, Chris, who was on the board. Phyllis was the type of woman who makes an immediate impression on you. She was friendly, gracious, kind, full of energy, witty, happy, and engaged. Over the years, she and I became closer friends who could always share a laugh and like-minded thoughts.
In 2017, when the 2018 mid-terms were upon us and Blue Action Dems were starting up, Phyllis was ready and rearing to go, attending meetings and hosting block walking parties as early as the primaries. We were in frequent communication about our drive to make a change in SW Austin and Texas.
In March of 2018, I learned that Phyllis had been diagnosed with late stage cancer and I was devastated. She obviously had to pull back from her volunteering to pursue treatment. But…get this…Phyllis re-emerged several months later and was dropping lit on doors and filling out postcards. She did this even while getting chemotherapy treatments and battling cancer. She kept her spunk and passion for seeing a blue wave take hold in November 2018. I was amazed by Phyllis’ tenacity and strength; she kept a positive outlook every time we communicated. As time passed, she became quite ill but she stayed tough and even lamented that she didn’t have the energy to do more volunteering. I thought to myself that if we had more people in this world like Phyllis, what a world it would be. Here she was fighting for her life, but she didn’t give up fighting for what was right. I will always be in awe of Phyllis.
Phyllis passed away on Sunday, April 14, 2019. I haven’t cried that hard in a long time. A friend shared a sentiment with me when I told her about Phyllis’ passing. She said, “Hopefully the changes we make outlive us all, but it is devastating to lose someone along the way.”
Let’s honor Phyllis’ legacy and keep pushing to make a difference even when challenged. Let’s encourage our friends and family to find time to volunteer despite obstacles. Phyllis would be so proud.
Phyllis and Chris
Park Day with Texas Conservation Corps
During the morning hours of Saturday, June 1, Blue Action Democrats teamed up with Texas Conservation Corps and City of Austin Park Rangers to assist with a National Trails Day volunteer event at nearby Stephenson Nature Preserve. The 17-strong GSD! crew was by far the largest group of volunteers.
Six of our kids pitched in, the youngest being only five years old!
Covered in bug spray and sunscreen, all endured the heat, humidity, and chiggers to improve the Stephenson Preserve Loop Trail.
The rock squad, led by Kennon Wooten, collected and hauled ten tons of stone to fill a washed out ravine. The closers, led by 14-year-olds Ally Frisch and Kate Bryant, closed off an old trail by filling in washout ruts with branches and rock and planting the improved surfaces with native seed. Finally, the drainage team, led by Mingfei Yi and CJ Zhao, created four rolling grade dips to create erosion free drainage on the main loop trail.
We all learned a lot about trail maintenance and all of our assigned tasks were completed ahead of schedule. Trailboss Paul Stuffel was quite impressed, even with a team bragging that we GSD!!
We encourage you to visit the preserve to view our work.
Blue Action Democrats thanks all of our hardworking volunteers for walking the walk and helping our community!
Precinct Number: 351
When did you join Blue Action?
Joe (Gilliland) and I came to the first meeting, mainly interested in the VDR training. We attended many fun events as VDR's, like Beers for Beto, sitting outside Homeslice Pizza, that kind of thing.
What's your favorite volunteer activity?
It's definitely registering voters. I think getting people aware of the issues and registered to vote empowers them to make an impact and then they will vote. Nothing will change without that.
I approached the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and we started registering voters there. It was pretty slow until the last few weekends before the election. Then it was crazy busy. So I think that's been my favorite activity, Voter Registration. Joe likes to do it with me. (Side note: Katy and Joe totally spearheaded the registration efforts at Sunset Valley Farmer's Market and registered dozens of voters before the election. They're back at it this year.)
We also block walked a lot. Some of that is enjoyable, but it's a bit exhausting sometimes. Also uncomfortable facing strangers at the door.
The weirdest feeling in block walking was feeling like we "outed" some kids as progressives living in conservative households. When we knocked on doors and asked to speak to specific democrats to GOTV, a couple of times a parent answered and assured us that no Dems lived in THAT household. (oops!)
What issue spurred your involvement?
As far as what got me involved is probably the assault on women's rights and the election of someone who seems incapable of kindness or truth. So many other issues have reared their ugly heads as this administration has continued.
I marched against the war in VietNam. If I'd been a man, my birthday was the first picked in the draft lottery. We didn't have the vote, but could be sent to die. But then I thought everything was solved and raised my children, had a career. It took Donald Trump to really get active again.
Where would you like to see the club in five years?
I'd like to see people involved in the group actually running for office. Maybe getting more involved with promoting specific issues, like the environment, women's rights, etc. I'd like to see more direct assistance to immigrants somehow. I like the volunteerism programs. The food bank night was great!
Join Blue Action Dems today to help volunteers like Katy and Joe register voters!