Hi-tech phonebanking targets key voters

Workers’ Correspondence

NEW YORK — Citizen Action is a grassroots organization dedicated to defeating the right-wing administration in the White House. Along with America Coming Together (ACT), a national coalition of labor and community organizations, Citizen Action has engaged phonebanking services developed by StrataSoft.

The system enables the caller to view the recipient’s name, address, etc., with the click of a computer mouse. I’ve done phonebanking before, but this is state of the art. Here is a simplified overview of how it works:

When the computer programmer first sets up the program, he or she creates fields containing questions and answers. As the phonebanker makes a call and poses the questions, he or she records the answers in the appropriate fields, finishes the call and depresses the “send” button. This sends all of the information to a central databank, where later it can be extracted and used by get-out-the-vote volunteers.

I spent several hours last week calling from Service Employees union headquarters here. Our calls targeted Missouri. Missouri is the classic battleground state. In fact, Missouri has picked the president (meaning that the state went for the winning candidate) every single election this century except for one.

The calls are broken down or streamlined. For example: targeting single-women and low-income married women in swing states. These women are interested in day-to-day issues that affect their lives: jobs, day care, just making ends meet. This constituency often doesn’t vote. By identifying them and convincing them that John Kerry is by far the better choice to address their concerns, we can get them to the polls.

My experience was gratifying. Most of the calls made to St. Louis were strongly behind Kerry. Some were undecided. These were the most interesting encounters. Here, we were given the opportunity to convince the undecided voters that these are no ordinary times and there are clear, substantial differences between the candidates. If my experience calling St. Louis is any barometer, the mainstream polls are not to be believed.

Citizens Action is also heavily involved in getting volunteers out knocking on doors. This is an effective way of getting people involved and excited about this campaign. People really appreciate these visits.

Many activists and political poll watchers agree that this election will be won or lost based on voter turnout. If this is correct, then Citizens Action and all the other grassroots organizations involved in this effort are to be encouraged and commended. The one and only positive thing the Bush administration has done for the American people is to bring us together in a collective effort to defeat it.

The author can be reached at gfalsetta@pww.org.