Guest op-ed from youth activist Isabella O’Connor of Des Moines.
In a post-caucus and coronavirus-ridden state, Iowans are struggling to remain, or become, politically active.
Many people who were already engaged in politics, or looking for a new hobby while social distancing, are having trouble discovering how to be involved. Yet now more than ever, people are realizing the importance and power of political engagement.
Americans’ lives are being drastically impacted by politics every moment. In a matter of one week, I was laid off of my part-time job, sent home from my freshman year of college and denied unemployment benefits.
The future was uncertain and I needed a sense of hope while in quarantine, so I began to get politically involved from home. Fortunately, we can all do our part, no matter how big or small, to remain politically active while social distancing. Our communities will come out stronger, more unified and healthier because of it.
Here are some things you can do from home:
Sign up to virtually volunteer for your favorite candidate(s)!
Iowa has a phenomenal slate of progressive candidates up and down the ballot. If you have spare time, sign up to volunteer to send texts or phone bank for your favorite. This can usually be done by reaching out to the campaign on their social media accounts. Typically, a campaign staffer will connect you with a link where you are able to call and text potential voters. Even sending five quick texts can make a difference! My recommendation is to sign up with a friend and send texts while on FaceTime!
Request your absentee ballot!
In order to keep our fellow Iowans healthy, the smartest and safest decision we can make is to cast our votes in the June primary election by mail. Lucky for us, this is an option in Iowa! You can download a request for an absentee ballot online through the Iowa Secretary of State’s website to mail in.
The request form must be received by your county auditor’s office by 5 p.m. May 22, 11 days before the June 2 primary election. If the request is for the Nov. 3 general election, the deadline to request a ballot by mail is Oct. 24, 10 days before the election. Request it now to make sure your voice will be heard!
Donate money to candidates or causes you believe in!
Although they may not be knocking on your door every day, campaigns and issue groups are still out there, and a lot of them are struggling. If you are able, consider donating to a candidate you believe in. It can make a world of a difference to the staff, candidate and movement as we all attempt to figure out the best way to elect Democrats up and down the ballot without in-person field operations. Most candidates and organizations have a donation link on their website.
Attend online events!
Many campaigns, politicians, activists, organizations and political groups are hosting online events and trainings. These are amazing opportunities to become a more knowledgeable activist from your couch.
One upcoming event is from Our Voices Iowa. They are hosting a digital summit where you learn how to build skills to make your power heard via trainings on lobbying for your rights, running for office and relational organizing. The workshops run April 5-9, with a Digital Day of Action on April 14. You can choose from the sessions that meet your passions and fit your schedule. It will be held on Zoom. You will receive the log-in after you register! You can register here.
Call your lawmakers!
Many Iowans are struggling and need relief. Call your local, state and federal politicians and advocate for people and small businesses battling financial, health and wellness struggles. The U.S. Senate and House switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121. The Iowa House number is (515) 281-3221. The Iowa Senate number is (515) 281-3371.
There is a lifetime supply of podcasts, YouTube videos, documentaries, articles, books, movies and other resources to learn from. Whenever I feel myself getting restless, I turn on a documentary while I clean or do laundry, a podcast while I cook or go for a walk, and try to read a few articles a day to stay informed.
For a lot of us, these are really difficult times. However, I feel fortunate that there are countless opportunities to remain politically active in times that can feel hopeless. For me, being politically active makes me a happier, smarter and better person. I hope you all can feel the same uplifting feeling I feel, even from home.
By Isabella O’Connor