The power of MoveOn: Our Massive, COVID-Safe GOTV Operation

4 min readNov 2, 2020

In the Midst of Pandemic, Door-to-Door Canvassing Has Been Replaced by Calls, Texting and ‘Relational’ Turnout, and It’s Moving Votes

By Rahna Epting, Executive Director, MoveOn Political Action

We are now in the final hours of voting. In a normal year, that would mean droves of volunteers going door-to-door in swing states, knocking on doors, identifying voters and getting out the vote.

Canvassers are among the hallmarks of an ordinary campaign season and often a demonstration of the strength of the “ground game” and “GOTV” operation of winning campaigns.

But of course, 2020 is not any year. The raging pandemic that the Trump Administration has not only failed to contain, but has given up on trying to contain, has made this staple of regular campaigning a bad idea.

Because there are fewer volunteers hitting the pavement going door to door, some people are now concerned about turnout, and potentially the outcome of the election.

Don’t count me in that camp.

Here’s why: That very visible mass of door knockers has been replaced by an invisible force — one that has largely flown under the radar of pundits and the media.

The advantage in grassroots energy in this election is firmly behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. It is the energy of a new progressive majority powered by a belief in our future, the strength of relationships, and the reach of technology. Instead of at the doors, that energy is being transmitted via text, online, and over the phone. And I truly believe it is not only our secret sauce, it is also our key to victory. We are the ones deciding that 2020 will be the turning point toward the country we want.

Who is part of this new movement?

Photo of MoveOn organizer Kenia Leon with her mother
Kenia Leon is mobilizing as part of MoveOn’s get out the vote program after losing her mother, pictured with her here, to the coronavirus. Now she’s working to win the election so other families don’t endure similar preventable tragedies.

People like Teresa. A MoveOn member from South Carolina who helped her mother, originally from Brazil, to vote for the first time after 30 years of being a US citizen, plus her son and all his friends who are first time voters.

People like Sam. A MoveOn member from Dearborn, Michigan who voted for Trump in 2016 but is voting for Biden this time around … and working with his family to ensure they do the same.

Teresa and Sam are what we call vote mobilizers. They are two among hundreds of thousands of MoveOn members and millions of progressives around the country who are calling, texting, emailing and writing postcards to their friends, relatives, neighbors and even strangers in swing states talking about the stakes in this election and turning out voters — a new progressive majority of at-home heroes doing the work of democracy day in and day out this election season.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

In the last few weeks, this groundswell of people power has:

  • Included more than 900,000 MoveOn volunteers who have pledged to get three or more people they know who live in swing states to vote.
  • Seen a record broken when MoveOn volunteers sent 2.9 million text messages one-by-one to others to get out the vote in a single day last week … and then broke that record just days later when they texted 3.1 million people in a single day, and then again when we crossed 5 million in a day this weekend.
  • Helped send more than 5,000 volunteers to virtual phone bank shifts with the Biden-Harris campaign to ensure potential voters have the information they need and questions answered in order to vote.
Image of the signup page for Vote Tripling on MoveOn’s website
The signup page for our Vote Tripling turnout program, in which more than 800,000 MoveOn members have committed to turn out at least 3 potential voters they know who live in pivotal swing states. Research has shown that not only does the Vote Tripling approach increase turnout among our turnout targets, but that people who pledge to become vote triplers are also themselves more likely to turn out.

The polls are encouraging, but we are not leaving anything to chance. The COVID-19 pandemic means that the doors we used to knock and the turf we used to cut are now phone and text message outreach lists, and we are connecting with and energizing more voters this way than we ever have.

We are proving that when we build accessible systems, distribute volunteer leadership, cultivate super-volunteers, and create flexibility in conversations between voters based on real connection. We are innovating to reach our target audience of 7 million high-potential voters in battleground states, to encourage them to make a voting plan and follow through. Levels of voter turnout are already breaking records. More than 93 million ballots have already been cast (with record numbers of young people) putting us on a track for the largest turnout in American history and a massive exercise of democracy.

There’s a new majority in America, delivering a message of shared prosperity, of community health and safety, of aiming high for all of us.

We are our own secret sauce. We are democracy in action. And, even in a pandemic when we have been forced to innovate, it is why we will win.




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