Campaigning during COVID: Georgia Dems Get Creative!

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12 mins read

“I love listening to candidates this way [virtually] – when and where I want. I feel more informed and familiar with candidates and their positions than ever before.” – Becky A., Georgia voter  

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions and cruelly taken the lives of over 75,000 Americans and counting. How many of those who perished would be alive today had the Trump Administration been responsibly prepared? Had they responded to the threat with swift competency? We will never know. What we do know is – electing Democrats in 2020 is truly a matter of life and death. 

In Georgia, Governor Kemp’s reckless, often nonsensical responses to the coronavirus pandemic have gone against even the White House’s barebones recommendations. With the primaries set for June 9th and the stakes so high, how are Georgia Democratic candidates reaching voters while sheltering-in-place? 

Digital Debates – Facebook Live

“I watched the Dekalb Dems Senate Debate after it aired and learned so much about the candidates. I ended up changing my mind about who I’m going to vote for. That surprised me.” – Debra P., Georgia voter

Because U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson retired in December 2019, both of Georgia’s Senate seats will be on the ballot in November. Governor Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to Isakson’s seat, but for now, only David Perdue’s seat has a Democratic Primary. 

On Tuesday, April 28th Dekalb County Democrats hosted a digital debate on Facebook Live! for those candidates: (abc order) Sarah Riggs Amico, MarcKeith DeJesus Jon OssoffMaya Dillard Smith and Teresa Thomlinson

During this debate voters were able to “Like” and “Love” what was being said as well as type in questions in real time. ‘It feels more personal and interactive than just watching debates on a stage or on TV,” said Georgia voter, Debra P.

On May 3rd and 4th, the Atlanta Press Club in partnership with Georgia Public Broadcasting held virtual debates on Facebook for the following races: U.S. Senate, Congressional Districts 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and Public Service Commission District 4. 

Both debates are now available for on-demand viewing on the links above. Georgia voter, Becky A. finds on-demand debates useful. “If I have a question, I can stop the playback and go research. After attending and having hosted live debates in the past, this format reaches far more people.”

Electify – Social Networking APP

“Electify is very easy to use. It’s more convenient than some of the other election apps I’ve used in the past and the competition side of things makes for a great motivator.”

  • Ed, Georgia voter

Carolyn Bordeaux’s press secretary, Henry White, knows how to appeal to volunteers who want to have fun! Bordeaux’s campaign is using the new social networking APP, Electify, developed by Eric Zhou. Electify gives voters “bite-sized, custom missions” to complete and tracks their progress on a leaderboard. They can earn reward points for campaign swag. Henry says some volunteers get really competitive and work to best each other on the leaderboard! Find Electify on the APP Store.

Phonebanking

“Phonebanking is different now; it’s more like door knocking. We are not only asking for their votes; we are asking how COVID is affecting the lives of our constituents.”

– Autumn Rivers, Field Organizer for Shea Roberts (Candidate for Georgia House 52)

I don’t know about you, but when campaigns ask me to phonebank, my stomach sinks. The hang-ups. The annoyed, angry voices. Can I write postcards, textbank or even canvas instead – pleeese? 

With the canvassing option a coronavirus no-go and textbanking too expensive for many local campaigns, phonebanking is now firmly on the table. Autumn Rivers, Field Organizer for Shea Roberts reassures me that “Phonebanking is different now.” “People are really opening up. They’re more patient on the phone, and eager for up-to-date information on voting.” 

The extended social isolation as we shelter-in-place is making many of us crave more personal connections – even to the point of answering phone calls from unknown numbers! The Georgia Democratic Party is offering many phonebanking and textbanking trainings. To find out more, click here

Virtual Town Halls – Zoom/YouTube

Everybody’s Zooming now, and so are Georgia’s candidates! They are using the popular virtual meeting platform to personally connect with voters. Teresa Thomlinson, candidate for U.S. Senate, has a weekly Zoom Meet and Greet on Thursdays from 5:30-7:00pm. Fulton County Democrats will be holding a Zoom Sheriff Candidate Forum on May 14th from 7-8pm. 

Voters can participate in Zoom events via their computers or cell phones. Feeling shy? Are you an introvert? No problem. Viewers can phone in or turn off their cameras and still see and hear the candidates and their guests. Questions can be typed in or submitted before the event. 

Cobb County Democrats hosted a series of Virtual Town Halls for local races such as Georgia House Districts, Superior Court Judges and School Board Posts on their YouTube channel. Watch them on demand here.

Social Media – Twitter/Facebook/Instagram

They say Twitter is national and Facebook is local. They also say Twitter is political and Facebook is social. In general, Twitter is a place where users can focus on political and social justice issues without personal distractions, and Facebook is a place where users can join local political and social justice groups and discuss personal issues. Everyone has their preferences, but in the age of coronavirus, candidates must have an active presence on both platforms. 

Every Tuesday at 6pm, candidate for U.S. House Representative District 7, Carolyn Bordeaux, hosts Carolyn’s Corner on Facebook Live. Public health administrators and physicians, as well as Georgia representatives such as Dr. Jasmine Clark, (H108) also a microbiologist, and U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson (GA04) have joined Carolyn to discuss the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting Georgia residents. 

Some candidates have branched out to Instagram as well, a platform not typically associated with politics. Sarah Riggs Amico hosts Inside Georgia with Sarah on Instagram Live to discuss issues with Georgia leaders such as Georgia House Representative Donna McLeod and Cobb County School Board Member (Post 6) Charisse Davis

Vote by Mail

In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of State Raffensperger recently announced that his office is mailing out absentee ballot applications to all active voters. And yet, early voting and the June 9th primaries will still be conducted in-person using the new Dominion* touchscreen system. How Secretary Raffensperger plans to protect voters and poll workers from coronavirus infection at the polls is unknown at this time. 

For the past 20 years, Georgians have elected their representatives via voting machines, so filling out handmarked paper ballots is new. To assist voters, Christine Triebsch, candidate for Georgia’s Senate District 32, posted a video on Facebook demonstrating how to fill out the absentee ballot form. “I got a lot of ‘Thank you! Great information.’ People just want you to make their lives a little easier. I hope I did with the video.” Not on Facebook? Rep. Jasmine Clark (H108) has posted a step-by-step guide to absentee ballots on Instagram Live

*Last August, Federal Judge Amy Totenberg declared Georgia’s Diebold voting system unconstitutional. Subsequently, Brian Kemp, then Secretary of State, bought $100 Million Dominion Ballot Marking Devices despite computer scientists and election security experts’ warnings that they are not secure nor can they be audited. Plus, the enormous screens do not allow for voter privacy. The Coalition for Good Governance has filed suit. 

Governor Kemp Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions

On Friday May 1st, Brian Kemp lifted the shelter-in-place order. When asked if their campaign strategies will change now that there are no official restrictions, all the candidates unanimously replied, “No.” They are not planning any in-person events for the foreseeable future. 

Like polio, rubella, mumps and measles – coronavirus will not “disappear” until there is a vaccine. In the meantime, we must stay home whenever possible, observe social distancing, wear a mask in public and wash our hands frequently.  Click here for CDC Recommendations. 

***

  • Voter registration for the June 9th Primary ends May 11th. Check your voter registration status at mvp.sos.ga.gov.
  • In-person Early Voting begins May 18th with Saturday Voting on May 30th.
  • Request/download an absentee ballot from mvp.sos.ga.gov or your county’s Board of Elections website or office. 
  • Are you a candidate? Fill out DemCast’s Meet the Candidate Survey! 
  • Want to know more about DemCast? Click here.
  • Join us! Find out how to get involved here.

Elisa Goldklang DemCastGA State Captain Twitter: @heartfulmom FB: Georgia Gold demcastga@gmail.com


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


Elisa Goldklang is DemCast’s Georgia Captain. She’s a speech-language pathologist and learning specialist with 25 years in the field. Her articles have been published in Atlanta Parent Magazine and DemCastUSA’s online newspaper. She lives in Marietta, GA, with her husband, daughter (virtually in college) and their dog, Misty. Her son graduated UGA in 2020 and is now working in NYC.

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