You can get paid to talk to your friends about voting

In Tonya Williams’ Mississippi family, they all vote. But last year, Williams’ uncle candidly mentioned that he hadn’t voted in an election in several years. Shocked, she helps him make a plan.

“We did not miss the election. We will go. If you need a ride, we will pick you up and take you to vote,” Williams said.

Relentlessly, a progressive group focused on relational organizing—individuals tapping into their personal networks to vote—relies on people like Williams to get family members to the ballot box.

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

“Relationship [organizing] is a way for voters to get accurate information in these unprecedented times of misinformation, because people trust their friends,” Davis Leonard, chief executive officer at Relentless, told WIRED. “And so the best way to give people accurate information they trust is from a trusted messenger. And that’s someone they already know.”

By paying people like Williams, who participated in Relentless last year, the group hopes to reach disenfranchised voters by accessing their personal networks. Relentless is especially excited to do it this year, because about the amount of election misinformation that has appeared online.

“One of the things we’re learning is that the degree to which I trust the information that comes to me is only enhanced when I trust the information that comes to me,” said Hahrie Han, a professor of collective action and grassroots movements. I trust the person who provided me with that information.” at Johns Hopkins. “And how much I’m willing to be persuaded by someone also depends on how much I trust the messenger.”

In 2022, political texts increased 158% compared to the previous year, according to data compiled by robocall blocking app Robokiller. That year, Americans received 15 billion political texts. For many people, the content of these messages and other communications is questionable: More than 70% of voters say they are concerned about election misinformation, according to a recent poll from the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said in an interview Tuesday that organizing relations “is really about communicating in a way that helps reduce the noise in the storm of information and misinformation that voters must face”. “And it also helps people think about what their most basic values ​​call them to do, even if that means voting for a candidate for a party they did not previously support.”

Relentless uses its own app, Rally, which allows program participants to record their contacts and interactions with friends. Participants can post memes, message their friends, and organize live events for the common good, as long as the contact is led by voters and not campaigns. “I just think people need to know about voting and this program helps us do that,” Williams said. “We will meet at a location and then go into that community and have a chance to talk to people and see how they feel about voting in Mississippi.”


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