December 27, 2022

DAGR Vols: Charity Moschopoulos, GOTV+

There’s more to DAGR than may meet the eye. We’ll be featuring the members who keep things running, in the hopes more of us will want to help out. We’re starting with GOTV (Get Out The Vote … which in DAGR is also part of the Membership task.)

“Play it where it lays” is bad grammar but a fitting phrase to dive into Charity Moschopoulos’ roles as a DAGR volunteer. Her trajectory of the last 15 years spans responsibilities, some easier, some harder. Charity’s Girl Scout mom experience led to “the red hat” for visibility when she led the Greeting/Guiding team for the 2009 Obama Inaugural at ACS. That was before she gave one to the DAGR chair for the 2015 July-4th picnic, and long before that grifter guy stole the idea and printed MAGA on a gazillion.

Before long, we’d noticed Charity could layout a newsletter. She’d been doing one for Newcomers, and DAGR got her editing and laying out those early pdf letters on the DA website. In 2015, we talked her into running for DAGR secretary. Little did she know DA global was going to switch from Drupal/CiviCRM to NationBuilder at the end of the year. A whole new ballgame! She served two terms as secretary before seeing the light of day again. That’s not to mention collecting furnishings for the ‘somateio’ HQ, helping with Film Nights, and pitching the Art Auction that DAGR put on for the regional DA meeting in Athens.

Right now, she’s finishing up a three-year stint as chair of the GOTV standing committee. That means recruiting, training and guiding phone-bank volunteers, the members who make the calls to other members. But there’s more to it.

DAGR still uses local phones, instead of the “calling app” DA global provides. We do it so our call lists can be set up around Greek postal codes and usually called by someone from that area. The hope is to build community, local ‘precinct’ groups, and eventually more chapters around Greek cities. The volunteers call the same list, usually around 30 members, give or take, and gets to know the members they reach.

At the very least, our GOTV volunteers make sure contact info is up to date and remind the members to vote. According to Charity, “The best volunteers are the ones who can get into a conversation and listen to members’ concerns. Everybody likes a conversation, especially older members who don’t get out so much or who don’t know other Americans in their area.

“They really like getting a call from us,” she adds with a small smile, “well, except for the few who don’t want calls or are just pissed off at the Party.” Overall, though, people appreciate being a member of DA and of feeling connected.

That’s the visible part. Behind the scenes, the calls lists have to be divided and assigned. The volunteers must each have a confidentiality agreement on file with the global secretary. Members names are never given out or used for any other purpose but DA’s. European privacy law (GDPR) has made this an even more stringent rule. Then, as each calling campaign is completed, the results go back to the GOTV chair and/or DAGR secretary. Using the ‘low-tech’ method, DAGR doesn’t get the benefits of global’s high-tech automatic record keeping. For the extra effort, DAGR gets genuine connection with our members.

So far, Charity has handled in-putting call campaign results. She’s got a long relationship with the membership database, since serving from 2015 to 2019 as DAGR secretary. She pretty well knows it inside and out. It helps, but figuring out how to automate our results into the global system would speed up the work. DAGR has a form the callers can fill in, to generate a ‘batch’ that can go into the database. Convincing volunteers to use the form … well, that’s another training issue.

Apart from liking a good conversation, Charity says the ideal phone-bank volunteer will dive into the job and complete it. “Some of our veterans will pick up the phone at the drop of a hat,” she says. “Others would like to help, but have trouble getting motivated. And then there are a few who start great-guns, but fail to complete their call list.”

Some years are easier than others, according to Charity. In 2020, Trump was a very motivating factor. But 2022 -- despite DA’s efforts in starting state teams and promoting congressional races -- saw much less interest. Some previous volunteers didn’t even respond to Charity’s emails. And some members still weren’t aware they could and should vote in ‘midterm’ elections.

Rebuilding the calling team and motivating members before the rush is next up on the GOTV agenda. It starts now, with ‘membership clean-up,’ the first campaign each year. In a nutshell, a Dems Abroad country committee (CC) is responsible for making sure each of its members is a) a US citizen eligible to vote in US elections, b) living abroad in the host country at least 6 months of any year and c) verifiable every 4 years.

“Verifiable” means the member has shown up at an event, or answered an email or phone call, or donated, or … shown some sign of still being with us. Every year, there’s a handful that haven’t been in touch by the usual channels, and DAGR, like other CCs, makes a special effort to contact them. Members whose ‘last verified date’ (LVD) is more than four years past and who can’t be found are excluded from the official membership count and eventually dropped from the rolls.

But that’s the tip of the iceberg. The verified count has to be certified to ‘global’ by the end of January, so as to compute the CC’s voting strength in the international committee. Think of this as something like the decennial census that calculates the number of congressional districts in each US state. Also, it’s the basis of the process that verifies each of our voters is eligible to vote from abroad. As one DA veteran volunteer put it, the best thing is to call all year and have the rolls cleaned up by New Year’s.

Last year, Charity took it on herself to clear the callable list. She had some help from MM, who sent out the ‘snail mail’ letters to those who couldn’t be reached by phone or email. And DAGR ended up in that lovely space near the top of the CC list with 95% or better confirmed members.

In US election years, the GOTV team is more active. Calling campaigns throughout the year to encourage members to re-register with their home states, request their ballots for the year and be ready to vote and return their ballots, sent out 45 days before election day. Meanwhile, DA global sends out ‘deadline’ emails to members as their state deadlines approach.

As 2023 is an ‘off year,’ the emphasis will shift to getting ready for 2024. A couple of calling campaigns will get veteran volunteers back in touch with their call lists. Folks who like conversing and building relationships can be brought into the team and trained. A sharp IT person might figure out that ‘batch entry’ hiccup. Our ‘bench’ can be built and new helpers trained for the chair’s job so Charity can free up for her next act. ~ KL