sending the message: get out and vote!

Sending the Message: Get Out And Vote!

How one woman found herself lobbying for democracy

Betsy Book has sent a lot of letters in the last year. And almost every one of them has been to someone she doesn’t know. It’s not that she has so much to say—though she’s no shrinking violet. It’s just that Book, a user experience researcher for a large financial institution in New York City, is committed to the American project of democracy, and happened to find a way she felt she could make a difference.

The letters Book sends come from a site called Vote Forward, which provides templates that volunteers can customize and then send to U.S. citizens who might not be registered to vote. “I just heard about it from a friend at work who showed me the site,” Book told Good Turns recently. “I’ve never been active in anything like this before, but when I checked out the website, I thought, Oh, this is something easy that I can do and it will be something positive, something productive. It’s better than just sitting at home watching the news, drinking wine and complaining. I mean, let’s be clear, I will still do that. But now I will also write letters to potential voters.”

“I’ve got a laser printer and some disposable income that I don’t mind giving to Staples”

“It’s geared specifically toward increasing registration and turnout,” Book says. “You go on the site and ‘adopt’ as many [potential] voters as you want. It lets you get their names and addresses, gives you a letter template, then you can also download the registration form, which you can include in your letter to them, and that’s it.”

The recent election cycle marked the first anniversary since Book started sending such letters—more than 4,000 to date. But her activism on behalf of democracy hasn’t stopped with herself. “You can either do this at home just on your own, which I do, or you can download a bunch of them and host little parties, which I have also done a few times. That’s worked pretty well. At the various parties I’ve hosted, I give away packets to friends here and there.”

“What appeals to me is, if you’re in a very blue state or a very red state, you think, Oh well, my state’s going to go this way anyway, and I don’t live in these other states, so what can I do? But anyone who lives anywhere and wants to help make some kind of positive impact can easily do this,” Book says. “It’s something you can do on your time, in your own way. You can do as little or as much as you want. Will it make a difference? Who knows? I don’t know, maybe not. But it can’t hurt. If nothing else, I’ve helped enfranchise fellow Americans, and there’s the altruistic part. It can’t hurt, it can only help.”

“And maybe, just maybe,” Book says, “it’ll help us win.”

“I’ve never been politically active, really,” she continues. “I’ve always tried to be altruistic. I’ve always done volunteer work and tried to donate my money to causes I support. But I don’t necessarily look at this activity as being particularly altruistic. I’m just a pissed-off bitch who wants to win this election and I’ve got a laser printer and some disposable income that I don’t mind giving to Staples. You can spin it as though I’m helping democracy, but really why I’m doing it is I don’t want to lose again, I want to win.”

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