Volunteers in Final Push to Get Out Voters
By Paula Garcia
BU News Service
Boston – On the Saturday morning before the primary election, less than four streets apart, two mayoral candidate campaign offices were buzzing with volunteers making phone calls or setting out to knock on doors.
In the downtown office of mayoral candidate John Connolly, Ross Levanto greeted incoming volunteers and directed them to a set of foldable white tables that held rechargeable mobile phones. Meanwhile, four streets away the Service Employees International Union, SEIU, rounded-up union members and other local volunteers to support the efforts of the Felix Arroyo campaign.
“We as a union are supporting Felix,” said Eliza Sparkes, communication specialist at the SEIU Local 32BJ- District 615. “We have endorsed him and have had a full- scale volunteer operation since August.”
Arroyo is the youngest and only Hispanic candidate in the mayoral race. According to Sparkes, the focus of the Arroyo campaign and SEIU volunteers is to ensure that Latino voters get to the polls on election day.
“We are making those phone calls, knocking on doors,” said Sparkes, “because we have found this is really the best way to make sure voters know who [Arroyo] is and what he stands for. The goal being to turn out our members to vote and turn out the Latino vote.”
Sparkes said that on Saturday alone between 20 to 30 volunteers recruited by the SEIU volunteered to make phone calls and knock on doors in Hyde Park and East Boston. Outside the offices, a sub-group of about 15 volunteers gathered in their dark green – “SEIU Supports Felix Arroyo” – shirts while awaiting a van that shuttled them to the neighborhoods of Arroyo supporters.
In a smaller office space four blocks north of the SEIU and Arroyo offices, volunteers were making phone calls to Connolly supporters. “We are contacting voters who are supporting John Connolly, said Ross Levanto, volunteer coordinator for the downtown Connolly campaign office. “We are encouraging and reminding voters to go out and vote on Tuesday.”
Levanto said this is part of a process called GOTV or get out the vote. During the days leading to the election, campaign volunteer have to get through dozens of packets, which at least in Levanto’s location, contain lists of names of up to 100 registered supporters. In addition to reminding them to vote, volunteers are instructed to ask supporters what time they plan to vote, whether they will need a ride to their voting location or if they need the address of their voting location.
“We are going to do whatever we can to convince them that it is important to go out and vote,” said Levanto.
Levanto coordinates the GOTV efforts in Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, Bay Village, the North End, and portions of the South End. “The great thing about John Connolly is that he has supporters all throughout the city,” said Levanto.
Levanto said that this wide support is the result of Connolly’s approach of reaching out to the community in small group settings. According to Levanto, Connolly has held over 100 house parties at volunteers’ homes to talk to groups of no more than 20-30 undecided voters at a time.
“In this type of election that has so many candidates, it is that face-to-face contact that is most effective,” said Levanto. “This really is a neighbor to neighbor election.”
In both campaign offices, the main goal was to get as many eligible voters to the polls as possible. The primary election will be the first in 20 years in which mayoral candidates are chosen to compete for the general election that will take place in November.
According to Levanto, with 12 candidates to choose from, participation of voters is the focus of the campaigns.
“We are not even thinking about the next step, we are right now 100 percent focused on getting our voters to vote on Tuesday,” said Levanto. “If we are fortunate enough that voters pick us to move on to the final, we will worry about that on Wednesday.”