In a small room on the third floor of Houston Hall, Wharton freshman Dylan Milligan emphatically ends a call on his iPhone and throws off his earbuds. He has just signed up another Philadelphia resident to canvass voters over the last weekend before Election Day. He looks around, with a big smile. His earbud-wearing friend across the table throws him a nod, mid-phone call herself. With no time to lose, Milligan quickly types in another number.
Welcome to phone banking, hosted by Penn Democrats.
With Election Day around the corner, Penn Dems is working harder than ever to encourage people to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic Senate nominee Katie McGinty.
Over 60 volunteers have spent every evening this week holed up in different rooms across campus, calling identified Democrats to make sure they know where they are voting and recruit them to volunteer for the various Democratic campaigns.
“You know that you are making an impact because we are getting people to volunteer, and that is how we are going to win the election,” Penn Dems Political Director and College sophomore Rachel Pomerantz said.
Around 20 Penn Dems volunteers canvassed West Philadelphia, going door to door encouraging citizens to vote and confirming that they know where their polling place is and how to get there. Pomerantz said this is the most effective method of reaching voters.
At the phone bank, students recruited even more volunteers to canvass before America chooses its president.
Penn Dems received the phone numbers of identified Democrats from the Clinton and McGinty campaigns, which they are working with directly. Calling from their personal cell phones, students are directed to ask if the person is planning to vote for Clinton. Upon receiving an affirmative answer, the caller asks the person why they are voting for her and whether or not they want to volunteer.
The average call is about two minutes, allowing volunteers to make 30 to 40 calls per hour.
Some people aren't available to speak, or don’t want to be on calling lists, but for the most part there have been no hostile responses to Penn Dems callers.
“Not everyone is pleasant when they talk on the phone but it’s not that bad,” Pomerantz said.
Whether or not they succeed, members of Penn Dems feel they are making a difference.
“You can talk on Facebook and on Twitter all you want all about the election, but … getting out and doing canvassing, doing phone banking, doing as much work as we can, it is genuinely making a difference. It is not some abstract thing … You’re talking to real voters. Both in phone events like this and on Locust Walk during the day, making sure everyone knows what’s going on, and everyone knows what’s at stake … it’s a tangible way to make a difference,” Penn Dems Vice President and College senior Luke Hoban said.
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