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The Harvard College Democrats have adapted their campaign strategies to pandemic conditions, replacing door-to-door canvassing with phone banking competitions and virtual events as they seek to reach voters before the upcoming election.
According to College Democrats Vice President Oswaldo A. Ambrosio ’22, a principal goal for the organization is to promote political participation during this election cycle. Ambrosio emphasized the importance of encouraging eligible voters to vote.
“These changes are going to affect us, and if we don’t have our voices heard, then the people that are in power are not going to do the things that we actually think are necessary to make progress in this country, and to have a real inclusive vision of what America can be,” Ambrosio said.
This year, the group has sponsored the Harvard for Biden subgroup of the organization and campaigned for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.
In past election cycles, the club has held canvassing trips, during which volunteers participated in door-to-door campaigning and spoke with voters. Now, the College Democrats have focused most of their canvassing efforts on phone banking.
During each phone banking event, around 10 to 30 volunteers call voters to relay details about candidates and advocate for legislative issues. In the past week, volunteers have called voters about ballot questions in various states, including voting "yes" for ranked choice voting in Massachusetts.
According to College Democrats President Menatallah N. Bahnasy ’22, the club has made roughly 3500 calls this past semester. The group hopes to make another 1500 calls between Friday and Election Day on Tuesday.
The Democrats have also partnered with other universities to host phone banking competitions. Most recently, all eight Ivy League universities participated in a phone banking competition for candidates in Florida.
“It’s not just Harvard students that will be affected by the things that these candidates will pursue. In the future, everybody is affected,” Ambrosio said. “Being able to see other people phone bank alongside with you, or at different schools, just reminds you that we’re really all in this together.”
Bahnasy noted the importance of participation during elections that could be determined by a few hundred votes. She added that it is every individual’s “civic duty” to vote, especially given historical fights for that right.
“Your voice matters no matter how small you might think it is. I think there’s a great sentiment that one vote won’t make a difference, or ‘I don’t have to vote because it’s not going to matter in the long run,’” Bahnasy said. “But that’s far from the truth. Every vote matters.”
According to Ambrosio, political involvement encompasses much more than just voting for the Democrats.
The group’s broader efforts have included writing letters to state legislatures advocating for sexual assault justice system reform and phone banking for issues like immigration and climate change. Over the summer, the group held a phone bank for Black Lives Matter.
“Everybody’s vote matters, but also I think voting is just the start of anything. Voting is not the only thing that is necessary to build political power and make sure that our elected officials actually hear what we’re saying,” Ambrosio said. “We have to contest every part of the political arena.”
The Harvard Republican Club, which endorsed incumbent President Donald J. Trump last month, declined to comment on their pre-election effort.
—Staff writer Jessica Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Christina T. Pham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Christina_TPham.
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