I entered the Democratic Party of San Fernando Valley (DPSFV) headquarters with limited experience engaging in politics, and I left with the understanding that politics can build a community. After all, what more is politics than organizing people to action? Through my volunteer experience I realized how much closer I am—we all are—to the political process.
DPSFV is the headquarters for 27 Democratic Clubs within 7 Assembly Districts (37th-43rd), which are all a part of the San Fernando Valley. According to DPSFV’s website, its purpose is to “…strengthen [a] grassroots coalition of progressive Democrats to support and conduct an effective, independent campaign for the Presidency and for Congress.” This purpose manifests through volunteers participating in “getting out the vote” efforts, such as conducting phone calls to local Democratic community members, and encouraging them to vote for candidates and propositions that are consistent with their beliefs.
For this year’s election, DPSFV estimates that it has made around 130,000 phone calls in total. While at DPSFV, my fellow volunteers and I made calls about two important propositions that will be on the November ballot: Propositions 30 and 32.
In addition to making phone calls, volunteers can also participate in a process called scanning. After volunteers speak with supporters over the phone, they mark on a sheet whether or not they plan to vote for or against the propositions. Other volunteers scan their responses into a statewide database system, which helps the DPSFV figure out where it needs to focus its efforts.
Being that all volunteers have a different level of understanding of the propositions, it is important to first participate in training. The training consists of gaining a firm understanding of the propositions and how to explain them in a way people can understand. For Proposition 30, I learned about the dangerous cuts in education that would result if we fail to pass this initiative. I also learned about how Proposition 32 will threaten the voices of young people and the middle class by creating a system where the wealthy can drown out everyone else’s voice. Each volunteer is given a packet of information about the propositions during the training that they can keep and reference while conducting the calls. My training group was made up of 5 high school students and myself. Later, I sat at a table with a woman who has been volunteering with the Democratic Party for over a decade. The diversity of volunteers and their experiences really stood out to me. DPSFV created a space where people of all ages could work together on a common goal.
I was also particularly impressed with the level of personal dedication to the Democratic Party. It’s the volunteers and their personal commitment that make this office work. Kess Kessler, who helps run the DPSFV office, took the time to show me buttons and magnets that he made for local supporters.
Without the office, there would not be a space for individuals—ordinary people like the high schools students and myself—to engage the San Fernando Valley and remind people to exercise their right to vote. The small, individual efforts of volunteers—whether it is making calls, organizing other volunteers or helping fundraise to keep the office running—are important political acts that build a community. I was excited to be a part of the DPSFV’s efforts and look forward to going back.
Lindsey Poole is a Communications Major at the University of Southern California. To join Lindsey as part of our invaluable team of dedicated volunteers, fill out this volunteer form or find a Democratic Headquarters near you.