Local volunteers get out the vote

Photo courtesy of Henry Gustafson

Pennsylvania Democrats prepare for Election Day in Collegeville

Sarah Hojsak

sahojsak@ursinus.edu

With Election Day quickly approaching, Erika Wohl’s emails take on a greater sense of urgency. The Field Organizer for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party in Collegeville, Skippack, and Upper Providence, Wohl is working hard to increase local community members’ role in the election process.

Calling to enlist volunteers for canvassing and phone banking, Wohl signs off, “We’re stronger together, PA. We can only win this with your help.”

Wohl explained that for the presidential election, Ursinus is in one of the most important counties in the country. Not only is Pennsylvania a swing state, but Montgomery County in particular has the potential to either go red or blue.

“Ursinus students have a lot of power in helping to elect Democrats up and down the ballot,” Wohl said.

While students look forward to voting on Election Day, Wohl’s team has been hard at work behind the scenes, reaching out to community members and gathering volunteers.

“What’s really special about this campaign is the amazing volunteers that have gotten involved to help elect Hillary Clinton and prevent a Donald Trump presidency. Working with volunteers has been my favorite part of my role on this campaign,” she said.

Patrick Bailey, a recent graduate of Wesleyan University who has returned home to Collegeville to get involved with the campaign, is what Wohl described as a “super volunteer.” While living in New England, Bailey began attentively watching election coverage.

“It’s hard not to: It’s everywhere,” he said.

When Bailey began to notice polls shifting in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, he decided to return home and get involved.

He described the concern for the idea of a “President Trump” that many Democrats share: “Even though people were laughing [at Trump] it started to actually become troubling.”

Leading up to the voter registration deadline, the Democrats’ team was primarily concerned with making sure community members were registered to vote. Now that this has passed, with less than two weeks remaining before Election Day, their main goal is to get out the vote – GOTV for short.

“The week leading up to Election Day is the most important week of the whole campaign,” Bailey said. “We’re trying to get people prepared for the actual day: Tuesday, November 8.”

This includes reaching out to community members by going door-to-door and making phone calls. In addition to encouraging people to vote, the volunteers have been informing voters of polling places and voting times for Election Day to ensure that everyone makes time to vote.

“We want to make sure they don’t forget about it,” Bailey said.

The three polling places in Collegeville are the Collegeville Borough Hall, Trinity United Church of Christ, and St. Eleanor’s Catholic Church. Ursinus students who are registered to vote in Collegeville will vote at the Borough Hall.

According to Bailey, while the presidential election is highly anticipated, the volunteers are also striving to raise awareness of local candidates.

“I’ve been trying to do a lot of outreach, canvassing and phone banking, trying to reach out to Clinton supporters and see who might vote for other Democratic candidates as well,” he said.

Bailey has enjoyed canvassing in the area where he grew up and meeting members of the community.  

“It’s a little intimidating at first, to just go up to someone’s door and knock,” he said, but explained that many people have been welcoming and eager to engage in conversation about the stakes of this election.

“Most people seem pretty wary about the election,” he observed. “To talk to someone on a human level about the election has been really enjoyable.”

Because of the importance of Montgomery County in the election, Wohl felt a lot of pressure heading into the campaign season to gather support from local Democrats. With the end of the election in sight, the Pennsylvania Democrats are confident in the work their volunteers have done and are encouraged by the positive responses they’ve received from area voters.

With less than two weeks remaining, they emphasize the importance of being active in this election, especially because of the affect this battleground county may have on a national level.

According to Bailey, it’s important to “get out, voice your support, try to get other people to voice their support, and come out on Election Day.”  

Engaging with community members has been an eye-opening experience for the Pennsylvania Democrats. While they encourage local voters to support the democratic candidates, they have seen a wide range of political views in the area.

“Getting closer and closer to Election Day, people are becoming more adamant about who they’re voting for,” Bailey noted. “It can either go red or blue.”

In addition to attending one of Hillary Clinton’s rallies in Pennsylvania, Bailey recently had the opportunity to attended a nearby Donald Trump rally, and described the difficulty of sharing opposing political views from many of his own neighbors.

“It was quite an experience,” he said. “It’s very strange to hear Trump say all these things you really, in your gut, disagree with, and people around you cheer for . . . At the same time, they’re Pennsylvanians just like you are.”

At the same time, Bailey emphasized the importance of voters being positive and sharing their message.

“This is probably the most important election I’m going to vote for in my life. So much is at stake.”

While Bailey believes the stakes of this campaign cycle have served as a “wake-up call” to get people involved, he thinks that the national divisiveness the presidential election has sparked will not disappear after Election Day.

“By November 8, people may be completely done with the election, but we need to stay involved to keep working to fix our national issues,” he said.