The Outer Sunset's GOTV Moms work to get out the vote by organizing letter-writing parties and phone banking. Their set of local-artist-designed postcards is available for purchase to benefit Fair Fight 2020. (Courtesy of GOTV Moms)

San Francisco women and artists team up to get out the vote

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Since early March, the GOTV Moms have been laboring for democracy.

But when the pandemic erupted, what began as a plan among six Outer Sunset friends to help register voters during their spring and summer travels was forced down a more socially distanced path—and that has made all the difference.


"Initially it was not going to be an actual organization," explains Joanne Duong Bartels. "We were just going to do it on our own like we have for the last decade. But with COVID-19, GOTV Moms became something bigger."

10 local artists contributed their work to this set of GOTV Moms postcards; purchases benefit Fair Fight 2020.(Courtesy of GOTV Moms)

In each of the last two presidential elections, less than 62 percent of Americans cast a ballot. It's a statistic that's held steady in the United States since the 1980s and one which, over time, has whittled away the underpinnings of an American democracy built on the principle of one person, one vote. Local election statistics are even more dismal. In 2019, just under 42 percent of registered voters in San Francisco voted.

So, online, the group has reimagined itself as a hub of get-out-the-vote information for grassroots activists. The GOTV Moms website and Instagram shares information on how to get involved with nonprofits working to get out the vote and offers advice on putting together phone banking and postcard- or letter-writing parties, complete with friends and wine.

For the latter, the friends created a set of voting-themed postcards featuring illustrations by 10 local artists—including group members Amber Cady and Lena Corwin. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to Fair Fight 2020. Not only is postcard writing an easy way to participate in getting out the vote, it's also effective. According to Vote Forward, which conducted a letter-writing campaign during a 2017 election, voter turnout was 4 percent higher among individuals who had received handwritten letters than those who hadn't.

With just 66 days left until the November 3rd election, the GOTV Moms will soon pivot from postcarding to phone banking but no matter the method, says member Sachi Cunningham, they will be pushing for people to get their vote out as early as possible, especially for those who are planning to mail in their ballots.

And, of course, elections don't disappear for four years with the presidential fight. Ballots for smaller elections are cast throughout the year. "If there's anything that this pandemic has taught us, it's that our local officials are [essential]. Local counts as much as the president. We need to vote up and down the ballot for people who represent what's important to us," says Bartels.

"If we're going to have a healthy democracy, everyone needs to vote," agrees Cunningham. "If we're going to trust our government, everyone needs to vote."

And while it's mothers who are in charge at GOTV Moms, every American, mom or not, is welcome to participate.

"All of us have a mother inside of us that wants to take care of our country," says Bartels. "We're all laboring for democracy together."

// Register to vote, check your registration, and purchase your set of 20 4x6 artist-designed postcards ($15) to benefit Fair Fight 2020 at gotvmoms.com.

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