A Day in the Life with Nia Bentall

My name: Nia Bentall

I work as a field organizer for: Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia (PPAV).

My job is to: 1) Educate Virginians about how the actions of their state legislature affect Planned Parenthood and affect themselves; 2) lift up the stories of Virginians to members of the state legislature; 3) build power for Planned Parenthood through volunteers.

This day(s) in the life follows me through: Get Out the Vote (GOTV) for the Virginia state senate elections. PPAV coordinated with the state party to organize around the race in Senate District 10, an open seat.

This day(s) in my life matters because: If we had won, the Democrats would have taken back the Virginia senate. With a Democratic majority, the senate could have passed a Medicaid expansion that would have provided healthcare for over 400,000 Virginians.  We didn’t win, but our work doesn’t stop.

Some extra context you should know about this day(s) in my life: GOTV was so bizarrely calm for me because we worked so hard leading up to it. We had done full dry runs for GOTV each of the three weekends prior to the final four days. After practicing everything so much, I was most useful knocking on doors and letting my Staging Location Director run the show, like she’d been trained to do.

Following this day(s) in my life, I’m will: Continue my work as a field organizer. The good news after this loss is that Planned Parenthood remains open. And now that we’ve built such an incredible team of volunteers, we’re ready for the upcoming General Assembly and for the 2016 election.

In Virginia, there are important races every year, so we always have something to work for. People with a stake in movements don’t give up.

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October 31- November 2, 2015

1:00 AM    Head home for a few hours sleep after assembling canvass packets for the weekend. We got our final GOTV universe at 10:00 PM on Friday night. Thanks goodness I had an organizer friend from out of town in to help us all assemble packets and put them in priority precinct order.

8:00 AM    Arrive at my Staging Location (the PPAV office).

9:00 AM    Head out to knock as many canvass packets as possible before the end of the day. My volunteer, Anne, launches the first canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director: # of volunteers in and # of canvass packets out.

12:00 PM   Anne launches the second canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

3:00 PM    Anne launches the third canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

6:00 PM    Continue to knock on doors to remind people to vote on Tuesday. Anne launches the fourth canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

8:00 PM    Return to the Staging Location with my completed canvass packets. Luckily, throughout the day, Anne has done a great job of cleaning up used canvass packets, entering data, and preparing for the next day, so there’s not much for me to do.

November 3, 2015

5:30 AM    Arrive at my Staging Location and pick up a poll working packet.

6:00 AM    Polls open across Virginia!  I complete a shift as poll worker to make sure there are no issues at the polling location.

9:00 AM    Stop by my Staging Location to pick up canvass packets. Head out to remind voters to vote TODAY! Anne launches the first canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

12:00 PM  Anne launches the second canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

3:00 PM    Anne launches the third canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director.

6:00 PM    Anne launches the fourth canvass and calls in her reporting metrics to our field director. Thanks to the dedication of our volunteers (many of whom skipped class to canvass all day), we’re able to make three full passes of our entire universe on GOTV weekend!

7:00 PM    Polls close. I return to the Stating Location to watch returns.

7:30 PM    Learn that throughout Richmond City and Chesterfield County, turnout results show we exceeded our win numbers.

8:00 PM    Learn that turnout in Powhatan County, an extremely rural and conservative area, is 185% higher than it was in a previous state senate election. I hop in the car with a fellow organizer (who has a law degree- phew!) to drive to Powhatan County to monitor the counting of the votes.

10:00 PM Begin to realize that these remarkable turnout numbers in Powhatan County are accurate. The unexpected heavy turnout of these rural voters (who showed up in droves to participate in a hotly contested local race) counterbalanced the high turnout in Richmond City and Chesterfield County.

November 4, 2015

2:00 AM   Arrive at home after a disappointing loss.

12:00 PM Wake up and schedule some time with my most engaged volunteers. Our work continues!

*Editor’s Note*

It’s so great to see inside an organizer’s life during GOTV, and especially one whose volunteer teams were so well trained and well managed, they could run a Staging Location on their own. Every organizer should continue to work hard and work smart so their GOTV looks very similar to this one. I can’t wait to see what Nia and her team of volunteers do next.
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