GOTV Reflections

GOTV Reflections

Written by the 2018 Washington Bus Fall Interns: Octo, Avery and Maya

One of the best things about interning at the Bus is the sense of community we build and the way we empower people through our work. This fall, we worked tirelessly to register voters before the election, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) after ballots were mailed. We focused on bringing voter registration to students instead of making them come to us. We organized with high schools and local community colleges, giving class presentations and canvassing on college campuses. We also had tables with information about voting and about the Bus at events at the Vera Project, a youth-based arts organization, as well as at events like the SEIU 775 conference. At the Bus, our mission is to combat misinformation about voting, let people know how easy it is to vote in Washington, and help youth and other marginalized groups better engage in politics. Our GOTV work consisted of phonebanks in our office and doorknocking events in King County and Pierce County. We could not have accomplished our GOTV goals without our amazing volunteers. We fostered  a sense of community at our phonebanks as we ate snacks, discussed interesting calls and watched fun movies together. For us, it’s important to remember that politics isn’t just about people in suits making decisions – it’s about people like us, being able to have fun while taking charge of our lives and working to improve the world around us. Our work this fall made a difference in local elections. All of our endorsed candidates won their elections. We registered 3,811 people to vote, made 16,503 phone calls and knocked on 1,397 doors. We had meaningful conversations with many young people about why they need to vote and, most importantly, we had fun doing it!

Octo

[Image description: Octo smiling at camera]

[Image description: Octo smiling at camera]

On GOTV weekends, we door knocked with Bus staff in the 30th and 47th legislative districts around Kent and Federal Way. Like phone banking, this activity required us to talk to strangers about their excitement for voting. The main difference is that we were meeting people in person in front of their house on a Saturday or Sunday morning. In addition to inquiring about people’s excitement to vote, we also asked people if they would be willing to endorse progressive candidates. Luckily, we had partners when we went door knocking around different neighborhoods, so there was always a good support system in case someone forgot a talking point or an unexpected conversation developed. The partnerships were perhaps the most engaging part because it meant closely working with someone you may not know.  My most memorable experience was with a volunteer from Nathan Hale.Working with this volunteer meant I got to share how I step outside of my comfort zone to engage in conversation. He was definitely nervous about talking to strangers, but throughout the day I provided opportunities for him to speak about ballot submission and the endorsed candidates. Through partnerships like this one, we could exchange our knowledge on how to engage voters, which helped everyone build on their experiences. We are proud of the community fostered in these personal and shared experiences because it contributed to greater voter turnout. Staff, volunteers, and interns alike grow into a community while working together to canvass. It was amazing to see people from various backgrounds feel united around political activism and we’re glad to tell you that it was a blast.

Avery

[Image description: Avery in front of Seattle Center Fountain]

[Image description: Avery in front of Seattle Center fountain]

For me, Avery, one of the best experiences of my internship was visiting a school that is a part of Seattle Interagency Academy. Seattle Interagency Academy is a network of small high schools that provide education for students who have been unable to continue their schooling in the mainstream Seattle Public Schools. We visited the school to host a voter registration drive and to do class presentations about civic engagement. During our presentation we all sat in a circle to talk about voting and what voting meant to us. When we asked who in the group was planning to vote, only two or three of the thirty-odd students raised their hands. We went around the circle asking people why they didn’t vote, their answers weren’t surprising: “I don’t think it matters,” “The government doesn’t care about people like me,” “It’s not worth my time.” These are all things we’ve heard from a lot of other students from marginalized backgrounds, as there isn’t a lot of evidence they can see about politicians caring about their needs. Will, the Bus staff lead, and I, shared stories about believing those same things when we were younger. A single vote may not feel like it matters, but as a group our votes count. We explained to the students that voting is a way they can take the future into their own hands and try to ensure it’s not just politicians who get to make decisions about their lives. By the end of our time there, almost every eligible student had registered to vote. A lot of students thanked us and said the presentation made them feel like they had a voice for the first time in a long time.  To see these students feel more confident and empowered to advocate for themselves was an incredible feeling.

Maya

[Image description: Maya smiling at camera]

[Image description: Maya smiling at camera]

People who work in the election cycle often talk about how draining GOTV season is – and with good reason. It’s hard to be face-to-face (or on the phone) with someone who simply doesn’t want to talk to you attempting to convince them that their vote really matters. And what do you say to really engage a classroom full of 17- and 18-year-olds who may not even realize there’s an election just around the corner? I think everyone who works for a campaign or volunteers at a GOTV event eventually figures out a message – or even just an opening line – that works for them, and that feels true and genuine.  There were a few conversations with voters that really stuck out to me. One voter I talked to while doorknocking in South King County thanked me and my canvassing partner profusely for the work we were doing and told us that his daughter – who was the person we’d been attempting to reach – had moved to Texas but was canvassing for Beto O’Rourke. Unsurprisingly, we left that house feeling energized! But it often still feels like a big challenge to educate and inform the public. However, the fact that it’s challenging is the very reason that our work through the Bus is so urgent – because so often it’s a sign that the people we’re talking to aren’t used to being reached out to. A new voter in South King County may not feel that voting is important to them because no one has ever bothered to ask for their vote – and that’s where the Bus steps in. Our message is simple: their vote matters.

Important News from the Washington Bus

Executive Director’s Announcement

 

To the Bus family,

I’m writing to share that I will be stepping down from my role as Executive Director of The Washington Bus by the end of this year. I am so proud of what we’ve achieved over the last two years. In 2017, we hosted Candidate Survivor, the largest candidate forum in the state for the Seattle mayoral election. This legislative session, our work with The Washington Voting Justice Coalition helped pass Automatic Voter Registration, Same Day Voter Registration, and Pre-Registration for 16- and 17-year olds, a major step forward in reducing barriers to voting in our state. This summer, we welcomed 14 impressive young people to our Fellowship alumni. I’m honored to be part of this growing network, now 169 people strong.

As I look ahead, I couldn’t be more excited for the Bus’s future. We’re refining our winning strategies for voter engagement, building momentum for a new strategic plan, and recruiting new expertise to our Board of Directors. It’s been an honor to work with a staff of talented young people so dedicated to fulfilling our mission. As always, the Bus will continue to support the leadership of young people from underrepresented communities: people of color, young women, LGBTQ+ youth, working class youth, and first-generation students.

I’m grateful for the support of our board as we work closely together on a transition plan over the coming months. I’m committed to supporting our staff and board in this process through the election season to ensure we end this year stronger than ever and ready to tackle 2019 and beyond. I am also grateful to all our volunteers, donors, alumni, and friends for your unwavering support of the Bus. This community is what makes this work possible. We still need you — there is so much more to come.

Yours,

Emilio R. Garza

 

A Personal Message from the Board of Directors

 

On behalf of the Washington Bus Board of Directors, we want to share our utmost gratitude to Emilio Garza for his leadership as Executive Director over the past two years. In driving the Bus, Emilio has both embodied our values holistically and helped to accomplish significant victories for the communities we serve and their ability to take part in the political process. As a longtime member of the Bus family, Emilio has given us a chance to benefit from his passion and dedication to making the Bus a better, more welcoming place for all. His meaningful collaboration with community partners has led to momentous wins in increasing political access and participation, not just for young people, but for all people in Washington State. Under his leadership, we’ve seen the Bus grow and mature into a place where our expertise in the field is undoubted. His contributions to the Bus, in both concrete wins and culture, will leave a meaningful legacy for our community.

While we will be sad to see Emilio go after this year’s election, we are excited to watch the next part of this journey unfold – for both him and the Bus. We look forward to celebrating Emilio’s tenure as Executive Director at this year’s Victory Fund event on October 16th at FareStart in the Pacific Tower at 6PM. We hope you can be there. Please join us in expressing our deepest gratitude to Emilio for his leadership and his continued partnership to ensure success in November and beyond.

Please feel free to reach us directly with any questions or thoughts. Sera can be reached at sera.day@gmail.com and Aaron at robertsonaaronb@gmail.com. Victory Fund event details and registration can be found here.

With gratitude,

Seferiana Day and Aaron Robertson

Washington Bus and Washington Bus Education Fund Board Presidents

Fellowship Alumni Spotlight

Fellowship Alumni Spotlight

As the 2018 Fellowship approaches we want to take a moment to spotlight some of our Former Fellows! It has been the ultimate #TBT reflecting on the amazing work they accomplished and the relationships they built during their time at the Bus. We are inspired by the impact former fellows continue to make as active and vibrant members of the community. Our Fellowship Alumni will always hold a special place in our hearts and are an invaluable part of our Bus family.

 

 

Seferiana (Sera) Day
Fellowship Class of 2010

Sera, who grew up in central California, moved to Seattle in 2005. Sera got word of the Bus while she was in graduate school for social work at the University of Washington when the Bus made a special visit to her Youth Empowerment class.

Sera’s favorite memory of her time at the fellowship is when the Fellows raced to the Greenwood Senior Center for the Social Security Birthday Party, to meet Senator Patty Murray. During the event, Sera was bestowed a “The only Rossi I trust is Carlo” t-shirt, which she loved and promptly hid.

About what the Fellowship means to her, “The Bus fellowship really gave me a foundation for Washington State politics and all that goes into running a campaign. It gave me an appreciation for grassroots organizing and field and helped me to build my network of politicos. I’d say it solidified my trajectory into politics.”

After the fellowship and graduate school, Sera went on to be a community and labor organizer at Working Washington and SEIU 775. She then ran Pramila Jayapal’s state senate race in 2014 and worked for Councilmember Tim Burgess as a legislative assistant for three years before joining him as a policy advisor in the Mayor’s Office for 71 days. In January 2018 Sera co-founded Charles – Day Strategic, a political consulting firm centering candidates and communities of color. In April she will return to the City of Seattle’s Information Technology department as the Community Technology Outreach Coordinator, engaging community and tech partners to increase digital access and equity across the city. Sera is also a proud board member of the Bus, and we are incredibly grateful for all the work she has done for our organization in enhancing the voices of young people in our communities.

On why people should join the Fellowship Program, “The fellowship is an amazing opportunity to meet other interesting, motivated, politically and social justice- minded young people and to begin building a network of people invested in your success and growth.”

You go, Sera!