Stephanie Perry has one piece of advice for Dems Abroad members lying awake at night stressing about U.S. politics: Get up and make some phone calls. Perry, member-at-large for DA’s Toronto chapter, should know. She was second in phonebanking calls from Canada in the lead-up to the 2018 mid-terms and number one for the Toronto call centre. “When I get up in the middle of the night to phonebank, it gives me hope and resolve. That’s a good use of my time.”
Perry, a former tax attorney in the U.S. Treasury Department, who moved to Canada 25 years ago, has been using her time to speak out since she was an eleven-year-old Pennsylvanian protesting the war in Viet Nam. She became active in the women’s movement and served as president of the gay alliance in university, even though “I’m a flaming heterosexual,” she laughs. In Toronto, her five-year term leading the Cabbagetown Tour of Homes raised money for many local charities, including women’s and Canadian newcomers’ literacy initiatives, Casey House (HIV care), art therapy for at-risk children, and a shelter for homeless LGBTQ teens.
Then came the 2016 election. Perry flew from Phoenix to Los Angeles for that city’s massive Women’s March. “I’d always appreciated Democrats Abroad for its access to voting from Canada, but I wasn’t actively involved until I saw the hundreds of thousands of potential volunteers in the streets,” she remembers. Perry also realized she “wanted to do more than march for the next four years.” She’s been all in with Democrats Abroad since then, helping organize local debate-watch parties and attending the Americas meeting in Costa Rica this past October. Perry found it invaluable “having the perspective of people from twelve other countries, many of whom face different, tougher challenges than we do in Canada in terms of getting out the vote.”
GOTV is where it’s at for Perry. “The most important thing I can do is register voters and get their ballots to them. I’ve registered hundreds, if not thousands, of voters.” All those calls have helped hone her approach. “I ask first, ‘Are you registered? Have you voted before?’ Then I walk them through the Vote From Abroad form.” Perry has found that the number one determinant for someone registering is personal contact. “People mean to vote, but … ” She’s found, too, that once people follow through they feel good saying, “‘Yes, I did vote and it’s in the mail. Aren’t I wonderful?’ And I say, ‘Yes, you are wonderful!’” Perry also tries to take it to another level, asking about other family members and friends living abroad.
With 2020 on the horizon, she hopes more Democrats Abroad will join her on CallHub. “Phonebanking is like video games or a slot machine. You’ve got that addictive pull of the handle, plus a display showing your ever-increasing score of calls made in the past hour. You get a little dopamine hit and each time you ‘win’ it makes it more likely you’ll ‘play’ again.”