“This is brilliant,” I thought to myself while staring at a crowd of zombies, vampires, witches and the undead. I had attended plenty of get out the vote efforts, but never like this. The room was packed, Monster Bash was playing loudly over the speakers, and everyone was dripping thick cornstarch blood.
“Welcome to Trick or Vote!” said a bright eyed Bride of Frankenstein as she handed me a clipboard.
I knew then I was hooked.
Engaging, educating, and empowering our peers is incredible work, but canvassing can be intimidating for volunteers. It’s incredibly difficult to talk to strangers and ask them to vote, but it’s increasingly the one thing that works to mobilize people. I wanted to do important work side-by-side with my peers and have a good time doing it. When I heard about a Halloween themed GOTV effort, I couldn’t help but show up. Trick or Vote provided a natural and funny way for me to talk to my neighbors.
“Where did you guys come up with this?” I prodded the head zombie while trying not to stare directly into the large fake gash across his forehead. (Even a zombie might find it rude).
“Well, a study was done at Yale in 2001 that showed that face-to-face contact is the single best way to get someone to vote,” said the zombie. “Knocking doors is the best method of doing that. So if knocking doors is the best way to get people to vote, what single day do people expect a knock on their door from a stranger?”
“Halloween?” I responded.
“And when does Halloween happen to fall?”
“Right before elections.”
I was in awe–the brilliance behind Trick or Vote struck me like lightning. (Which a 16 year-old Frankenstein assured me was an accurate description).
If the fake blood and brilliant idea didn’t get me, the turn-out results definitely did.
In 2008, when absolutely everyone I knew was getting involved in politics in some way or another, I didn’t think that a one-night canvass would have much of an effect. I was dead wrong. While pre-recorded calls turn people out at a rate of 0% to -0.2%, David Nickerson ran a study that showed Trick or Vote was turning people out at 5%. That’s enough to change elections!
I later discovered that we weren’t alone that night. Our event of 150 boys and ghouls was just one of 35 events nationwide in 2008 that contacted over 100,000 voters. Young people showed up in the thousands painted pale and wearing fangs, went out and asked their neighbors to vote, and came back to dance the night away to live music.
In 2010 we’re doing it again, but bigger.
I’m proud to be a part of Trick or Vote this year. We’re making 2010 the biggest one in history. We’re doubling our goals and not stopping there. We’re going to be in at least 50 cities nationwide from Portland, OR to Orlando, FL and we want to haunt your town.
(Previously posted on Huffington Post here).