Planned Parenthood sponsors campus phone bank

Elana Congress

Organizations like Planned Parenthood have a vested interest in the election. The election determines the politicians that will shape public policy in the years to come. Planned Parenthood focuses on laws and bills that affect women’s reproductive rights.

Planned Parenthood Public Policy Network, also known as “The Network,” isn’t allowed to be involved with the election. They’re the ones that run the 48 Planned Parenthood clinics sprinkled across Washington. They’re split into five regional affiliates: Planned Parenthood of Central Washington runs the Walla Walla clinic.

According to Cora Davidson, the Public Affairs Field Organizer for Planned Parenthood of Central Washington, “The Network can lobby elected officials about the issues, but we can’t discuss candidates for election.”

If The Network attempts to influence elections, their non-profit status will be revoked.
This is where Planned Parenthood VOTES! Washington PAC (Political Action Committee) comes in. They endorse candidates based on their past record on reproductive rights. Surveys were sent to candidates for Washington’s Congress, along with candidates running for Washington Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Governor in order to gauge candidates’ commitment to reproductive rights. Candidates that received a score of 100% on the survey were offered endorsements.

Planned Parenthood VOTES! Washington PAC, also known as IPPVW Political Action Committee, canvasses and runs phone banks to educate voters. Since August, they have rented out space at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Walla Walla to run phone banks. They hire employees of The Network, like Davidson, to coordinate the volunteer effort. Phone banks take place across Washington three nights a week, for three and a half hours every night. The phone banks are coordinated among the five affiliates. IPPVW Political Action Committee aims for 25 volunteers across the state participating in every phone bank: five volunteers from each of the five affiliates.

The phone banks are facilitated by the website myactivate.com. It’s a mass dialing system similar to ones used by telemarketers. The system goes through an imported list of phone numbers, dialing every one. It speeds the phone banking process by weeding out phone numbers that lead to busy signals and answering machines. Once the system gets a live caller on the line, the volunteer hears a beep and is connected to the call.

“You can get through twice as many numbers,” said Davidson, referring to the dialing system. “It’s so much more efficient!”

Volunteers call undecided voters and voters that are known to be pro-choice but don’t vote consistently. They follow a “Persuasion Script” and ask voters about their candidate preferences. They inform voters of the backgrounds of each of the candidates and attempt to influence their electoral decisions.

“We don’t try to convince people that their opinions are wrong,” said senior Erin Flaucher, the president of Whitman’s VOX and an intern at Planned Parenthood of Central Washington. “We try to be respectful. We know that our phone call isn’t going to change their minds.”

VOX is a national organization of college students that works in conjunction with Planned Parenthood. VOX’s official title is VOX: Voices of Planned Parenthood: “vox” means “voice” in Latin.

On Sunday, Nov. 2, VOX will be running a phone bank on campus. The phone bank will take place in meeting room 110 at the Reid Campus Center from 1-4 p.m. Students are encouraged to participate in the phone bank, even if it’s their first time volunteering.

“We want to try to get as many students involved as possible,” said Flaucher. Students will be trained at the phone banking session.

“[Phone banking] is something that I really encourage people to come in and try,” said Davidson. “A lot of people have been very surprised to find out that they like it.”