By 10:30 a.m. yesterday, the eve of the 2014 mid-term elections, I had already received three political campaign calls.
When my cell rang for the third time in an hour with a call from yet another unfamiliar phone number, I was beyond perturbed. I heard President Barack Obama’s voice and immediately hung up.
Yes, I hung up on the leader of the Free World.
The calls continued throughout the day. Both automated and live.
Actually, the calls began weeks ago before early voting. I’ve received the GOTV (Get Out the Vote) robo calls and the endorsement round of robo calls and the issue-based robo calls and the grassroots advocacy calls and the campaign fundraising calls. I’ve received live calls at nearly 9 o’clock at night and on Sundays too.
Thanks to big data collection my name and number must be on every list and call sheet there is. Promising to vote for the candidate the volunteer on the other end of the phone is supporting has done nothing to stop the calls nor has politely asking to be removed from “the list” because I am already on your side. This doesn’t even address the amount of campaign outreach I’ve encountered via email and social media.
I’m very familiar with GOTV work — digital organizing, phone banking, canvassing and the Voter Activation Network (VAN), a database of all registered voters. To say I understand the importance of voting is a gross understatement. Voting is the way we exercise our rights as Americans. It is how we play a part in the decision-making process in the land; and through tactics such as voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement the evil powers that be are showing us the value of some voters by scheming to eliminate their votes.
GOTV is much needed, an oft grueling, though, rewarding undertaking. I applaud the volunteers who make the calls, door-knock and fight to get the good candidates elected.
Around the country, there are 36 governor races, hundreds of ballot initiatives, 435 House races, 36 Senate races and 6,000 state legislative seats up for grabs. It’s been politics around the clock for weeks – months, and in some elections, more than a year’s worth of campaigning. Here, we have competitive judge races in Orleans Parish, a high-profile school board contest in Jefferson Parish; and of course the U.S. Senator Congressional races.
The radio ads have been both amusing and infuriating. Hearing Stevie Wonder’s endorsement for the reelection of Senator Mary Landrieu to the tune of “Higher Ground” is why political season can be entertaining. The drivel from Ben Carson backers speaks to why it’s vital to know the truth. I enjoy receiving the mailers, and have saved the more sensational ads over the years. But it’s those calls — that seem to always be ill timed — that bug me the most.
I get it. The calls are a minor inconvenience because politically — criminal justice, education, health care — virtually every aspect of life as we know it is on the line. But in real time, where people are working, going to school and taking care of their families, the overall GOTV push has become a political blur.
A national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 15-20 among 2,003 adults, including 1,494 registered voters, proves me right. Among registered voters who have seen or heard campaign ads, the results find that 53% say they generally do not pay attention.
While venting my frustration about my personal campaign call volume to a friend in politics, she told me that the best way to make the calls stop: Remove yourself from the Election Day GOTV universe by voting early.
Across Louisiana, early voting numbers have been remarkable. In Orleans Parish alone, more than 21,000 voters cast their ballots early, according to the Orleans Parish registrar of voters. That’s 21,000 people who might not have suffered through as many calls as I did — so this is the unexpected power of early voting.
[Update, 11:06 a.m. Tuesday: Moments after this column published, my phone rang. Guess who? A special message from First Lady Michelle Obama.]
My name is jewel bush, and this is the last time I don’t vote early.
jewel bush is an award-winning journalist and writer. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune and The (Houma) Courier. She has won numerous awards including distinctions from the Louisiana Press Association and the New York Times Regional Media Group. Her short story, “Red Polish” appears in “Dismantle: An Anthology of Writing from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.” Her newest piece, Related Somehow to Africa: Black Palestinians and the Search for Shared Identity, appears in issue 115 of the Harvard journal, Transition.