Students in a grassroots political organization spent three hours calling voters in Virginia to support a local Democratic candidate at a phone banking event Friday.
About 12 students in Bruins Elect met in a Westwood apartment to call residents in the Virginia House of Delegates’ 68th district to garner support for Dawn Adams, a candidate in Tuesday’s election. Virginia is one of two states that is holding legislative and gubernatorial elections in 2017.
Bruins Elect, originally called Bruins for Hillary, has worked on Democratic campaigns both in and out of California since the 2016 presidential election. Candidates they have supported include Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz and special election congressional candidates in Georgia and Montana.
Bruins Elect finds campaigns to work on through members’ personal connections from prior campaign and internship experiences, said Jessica Chase, president of Bruins Elect and a fourth-year political science student.
Chase said her friend from a previous internship put her in touch with the Virginia Democratic Coordinated Campaign, which assigned Bruins Elect to work on Adams’ campaign.
Chase said Bruins Elect works on campaigns outside of California because they want to get as many liberal politicians in elected office as possible. She added many of the campaigns they work on are in districts which voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
Earlier this year, the group worked on Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s campaign in California’s 34th congressional district. Gomez was the first Democratic congressman elected after Donald Trump was elected president.
Erica Griggs, a second-year English student and member of Bruins Elect, said members called voters in Virginia to increase turnout and encourage them to participate in the election.
“(The event) was mostly just checking to see if (voters) knew there was an election going on … and to exercise their civil rights to vote,” she said.
Griggs said they called registered Democrats to get an idea of who they are planning on voting for and to inform them of polling locations and voter identification laws.
“We just want to make sure everyone’s prepared and know how they’re going to get there,” she said. “I was really impressed when the (people) I was talking to knew everything, it made me feel so much better when they knew how and what time they’re (voting).”
Chase said she thinks their phone calls still have an impact even though the election is in Virginia because they try to have personal conversations with people.
“The personal connection that you establish when you make these calls is a big deal,” she said. “Out of every campaign tactic, personal contact has been shown to make the biggest impact on turnout.”
Matt Dunham, a third-year political science student and member of Bruins Elect, said he enjoys phone banking because of the personal connections he makes with individuals he talks to. One woman Dunham spoke with for a campaign outside California said she appreciated that he called her to hear her thoughts.
“It’s stuff like that really makes you feel good and want to keep doing it,” he said.
Chase said that while many individuals do not pick up their phone calls, she said she thinks many voters are interested in talking about their political concerns and beliefs. She added she thinks the phone calls also help students improve their communication skills.
“I think it improves debate skills (and) I think across the board for any career, it’s a huge boost.” Chase said.