This Sunday evening a phone banking campaign event for Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke was hosted at a Flatiron District apartment.
“Hi! This is Alexa, I’m calling for Jose. Is this a good number to reach Jose?” A volunteer questions into her headset. At least ten people of visibly varying skill-levels, backgrounds, and demographics fill various sections of the two-bedroom apartment equipped with laptops, cell phones, and headphones with attached microphones. With each volunteer nearby making calls every minute, they all hold their headphone microphones close to keep their voices as clear as possible to the other end.
The environment seems atypical of what many would envision a political phone bank to be. The host is handing out glasses of water to those working in the living room and offering assistance to those who lack experience.
In the office, an older gentleman received help with learning to maneuver the server with the numbers to call and the script by which he was to follow.
“How do I improvise? I don’t know where to tell them where to vote and what information to even give.” The host sat with him to walk him through the server which gives all sorts of information on the caller — age, where they are registered to vote, home district, nearest polling place, and other pertinent information to their civic duty experience. The patience while helping the man learn to navigate the process is pertinent to keeping all demographics engaged in the process. He came to help and was doing so to the best of his ability.
All who are there are volunteers committed to swaying last-minute voters or even just convincing them to vote and walking them through the process. Tonight, not many on the other end of the line are friendly and are annoyed that despite voting already or having plans to vote, their evenings are being interrupted by phone bankers. Volunteers suspect that it can be attributed to the close proximity to the voting deadline. Most have already made choices and volunteers must work carefully to not discourage them into not voting at all.
Host Reeya Shah, a 26-year-old New Jersey native says tonight is her most crowded and most diverse turn out yet. As for why a New Jersey native who now resides in new york is hosting an event specific to Texan voters, Shah says she finds value in working towards taking back the Senate from states that have traditionally voted for Republican officers.
“Living here in New York, I just felt that I can feel pretty confidently that Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand are gonna vote the way that I want them to but [wondered] ‘what can I do to help take back the Senate?’ I think that beating Ted Cruz and getting him out of there is a good way to do that.” Shah explained.
Within the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election date, this Sunday was Shah’s third time hosting a phone bank for Beto’s campaign.