By Sarah O’Keefe
With the 2020 election nearly upon us, many members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby have been looking for more ways to inspire positive action on climate change issues while continuing to practice social distancing amidst COVID-19. One of those ways is encouraging environmentally conscious voters to cast their ballots. Jeff Joslin, co-group leader of the North Atlanta chapter of CCL, organized a multi-chapter effort to collaborate with the Environmental Voter Project.
Like CCL, the Environmental Voter Project (EVP) is a nonpartisan, relationship-building organization. Their primary goal is seemingly simple: to get more environmentalists to vote in elections. Polls show that over 15 million environmentalists choose to stay home on election day. This contributes to politicians, who care most about winning elections, treating environmental issues as low priority.
EVP believes the key to enacting effective environmental policies is persuading more environmentalists to vote, rather than convincing more Americans to be environmentalists. Hear executive director Nathaniel Stinnett explain EVP’s work on this CCL national call from 2018.
Phone banking and team building
In prior election cycles, the North Atlanta CCL chapter has canvassed door to door with EVP, and were eager to continue that work while adapting to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. EVP volunteers use information gathered from cutting-edge data analytics and predictive modeling software to reach millions of identified environmentalists in the United States who are registered to vote, but often don’t. Joslin reached out to fellow Georgia CCL group leaders and worked with EVP’s Senior Organizing Advisor, Kate Heffernan, to mobilize interested Georgia group members into EVP’s phone bank training exercises.
In addition to increasing turnout of climate voters, the process was also a team-building experience. Joslin explained, “We would meet on Zoom for training and to share ideas prior to making calls. Some of us were wary of joining this effort for fear of being received by voters as ‘sales calls,’ but EVP’s tailored messaging made for encouraging conversations that ended up being fun to have! A Zoom debriefing afterward cemented group comradery. We called as individuals, but connected as a group.”
Making an impact
Over five weeks, Georgia CCLers enjoyed making a difference in phone banks and exceeded EVP’s goals for Georgia in the process. EVP’s Kate Heffernan was excited about the Georgia CCL volunteers’ efforts, calling them a great success. She said, “This was a really wonderful and effective phone banking effort. I’m confident that we’re going to see a tangible boost in environmental voter turnout from the calls that were made!”
Like CCL, EVP is research and results based. Looking at the numbers, the 30 Georgia CCLers made a substantial impact in a short amount of time, contacting nearly 1,000 voters. The group helped voters who had not received or misplaced their application get new ones and encouraged voters who had not submitted their mail-in ballot application to send it in. Nearly half of their conversations were with a family member of voters who were not at home, creating an opportunity to leave a message that sometimes ended up being helpful to the family member taking the call as well.
Looking ahead in the election year
The Environmental Voter Project is now looking ahead to their goals for summer and fall. This summer, they will focus on encouraging Arizona and Florida voters to sign up to vote by mail, and have plans to work in 12 states for the fall election: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (Don’t see your state on the list? EVP phone banks call multiple states, not just their own!)
With the upcoming election, it’s more important than ever for environmentalists and climate change advocates to cast their ballots and show what a high priority this issue is for Americans. “The rewarding experience of working with EVP coupled with a small time commitment of CCL members could make a big difference,” Joslin said.
Whether you are a Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer, group leader, or unaffiliated environmentalist, your voice counts and your message matters! With so many of us at home, it’s a great time to turn our energy toward the important fall election. Learn more about how you can help by visiting EVP’s website to check out their open volunteer training webinars and frequent days of action. Together, we can bring environmental voter turnout to a tipping point of overwhelming demand for the climate and environmental policies we urgently need.
Sarah O’Keefe is a CCL volunteer in the North Atlanta chapter in Georgia.