A group of women sits around a table, all heads down, tapping into their cellphones. They are also chatting and laughing as they text people they don’t know in North Carolina. The automated message they are sending informs people in this swing state that early voting is available to them. The women are just a few of the many volunteers who are packed into a former toy store on Solano Avenue, now the bustling Berkeley-Albany headquarters for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
The phone- and text-banking hub is also the national call center for Clinton as the campaign, whose epicenter is in Brooklyn, determined that California is the state with the most resources. It opened on Oct. 22, and will remain open, said the HQ’s co-lead Allie Janoch, until the result of the presidential election is called.
Barbara Bryant, one of the group of texters, said she had been doing three-hour shifts with her partner for the past four days and would be coming back every day through Tuesday. “We have got to counter the deep sexism of that man,” she said, unable to mention the name of Clinton’s adversary.
Sitting close by, another volunteer said she had been planning to take a bus to Reno to talk to potential voters door to door. Then she watched the documentary Michael Moore in Trumpland and realized she had to do something quickly, so came down to the campaign center. “Both the phoning and texting are easy to do,” she stressed.
Janoch said the goals for the center vary a little each day, depending on what instructions are coming from campaign central, but the overarching, laser-focused objective is to get out the vote, specifically among Clinton supporters.
In a group training session on Thursday — there are three 30-minute sessions a day, at 9 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. — Jude Berman explained to a group of about 15 how to use a predictive dialing system which connects a volunteer’s cellphone to a laptop. She advised the volunteers to begin by introducing themselves. “Then ask them if they are supporting Hillary,” she said. “Don’t continue if they’re not.”
A conversation on the phone might be very short, if there’s a hangup for instance, or very practical — helping the person on the other end of the line figure out a plan for voting — and it occasionally takes an interesting turn. One volunteer told Berman he had ended up persuading an undecided voter to vote for Clinton. He was excited, she said.
Janoch, who works in software, said she was motivated to work for the Clinton campaign partly because she loves being an organizer, but also because, working in tech, she is used to often being the only woman in the room. “Not many younger women necessarily experience that these days, but I think older women know what that feels like,” she said.
Phone-banking for the campaign has been happening for months, of course, but mainly out of people’s homes, said Janoch. Having a dedicated space is a big improvement, she said, as people don’t always want to go to other people’s homes and they may not be accessible to all. The former Five Little Monkeys toy store has been kitted out with desks and chairs on loan from volunteers and a copious supply of snacks and drinks is also donated.
The center was buzzing like a beehive on Thursday and Janoch said they have so many volunteers they are looking for places to expand over the next four, crucial days of the election. The Suzette Crêpe Café next door offered to make its space available Monday when it is usually closed and, Janoch said, she thinks a local school might be able to accommodate some volunteers. “We’ll probably send the texters there because they’re so noisy,” she said, laughing.
The Berkeley-Albany Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters is at 1224 Solano Ave., Albany. It is open today, Friday, 9am-9pm; and Saturday through Tuesday 6am-9pm. Volunteers may show up at any time of the day, or arrive in time for one of the three daily training sessions, at 9am, 3pm, and 6pm. Learn more about volunteering for the Clinton at the campaign’s website.
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