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You Can Get Paid to Talk to Friends About Voting

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You Can Get Paid to Talk to Friends About Voting

In Tonya Williams’ family in Mississippi, everyone votes. But last year, Williams’ uncle casually mentioned that he hadn’t voted in an election for several years. Surprised, she helped him make a plan.

“We don’t miss the elections. We will go. If you need transportation, we will pick you up and take you to the polls,” Williams says.

Relentless, a progressive group focused on relational organizing (individuals who leverage their personal networks to get out the vote) relies on people like Williams to get their family members to the polls.

Since the 2022 election, Relentless has championed relational organizing, and this year the group is launching a $10.8 million program that will, in part, help pay program participants a $200 stipend to get out the vote . Program organizers say they plan to build a network of more than 2 million voters in seven battleground states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Relational (organizing) is a way for voters to receive correct and accurate information in this time of unprecedented misinformation, because people trust their friends,” Davis Leonard, CEO of Relentless, told WIRED. “So the best way to give people accurate information they can trust is through a trusted messenger. And that’s someone they already know.”

By paying people like Williams, who participated in last year’s Relentless program, the group hopes to reach disenfranchised voters by tapping into their personal networks. Relentless is particularly eager to do so this year, given the amount of election misinformation already present online.

“One of the things we’re learning is that the degree to which I trust the information I receive only improves if I trust the person giving me that information,” says Hahrie Han, a professor who studies collective action and grassroots movements. at Johns Hopkins. “And the degree to which I am willing to be persuaded by someone also depends on how much I trust the messenger.”

In 2022, political texts increased by 158 percent compared to the previous year, according to Data collected by Robokiller robocall blocking app. That year, Americans received 15 billion political texts. For many, the content of these texts and other communications is suspicious: more than 70 percent of voters say they are concerned about misleading election information, according to a recent poll from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Relational organizing is “actually communicating in a way that cuts through the noise of the storm of information and misinformation that voters are facing,” Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in an interview Tuesday. “And it also helps people think about what their most fundamental values ​​require them to do, even if that means voting for a candidate from a party they haven’t supported in the past.”

Relentless uses its own app, Rally, which allows program participants to record their contacts and interactions with their friends. Participants can post memes, text friends, and host in-person events about shared interests, as long as the contact is directed by the voter and not a campaign. “I just think everyone needs to know about voting, and this show helped us spread the word,” Williams says. “We would meet at one location and then go into that community and have the opportunity to talk to people and see their feelings about voting in Mississippi.”

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