Fun fact: The election that’s coming up, the one that has us kind of missing the zany local car salesman whose low-budget TV commercials have been replaced by wall-to-wall political ads, is not the last election there’ll ever be.

In fact, as soon as this campaign is over, organizers will gear up for a round of local elections next year, including several high-profile mayor’s contests around the South. Plus, grassroots activists will start planning for state and legislative contests, Congressional races and ballot initiatives that are just on the horizon. 

As an organizer on the 2018 Georgia governor’s race between Stacey Abrams and now-Gov. Brian Kemp, Aimée Castenell knows firsthand what it’s like to mobilize in the event of an undecided election. She also knows the importance of gettin’ in where you fit in to get involved with grassroots campaigns, including in the event of a contested election and allegations of voter suppression.

Aimée Castenell on how the contested 2018 Georgia governor’s race might inform the nation in the event of a too-close-to-call presidential presidential race

We’ve seen what happens at the end of election night, when we’re expecting the results and we don’t get the results because the votes have been counted yet. There’s massive problems at the polls. And so it takes a lot of time. In 2018, we had to run behind people for weeks trying to cure votes, which is what happens when you have to vote with a provisional ballot instead of the regular ballot at your polling place. For whatever reason — maybe you got an absentee ballot and you didn’t want to vote absentee anymore so you go in person. Or the machines don’t work. So just chaos, essentially. I think people need to be prepared, not necessarily in a way, like don’t (vote) because it’s scary. Be prepared that there might be anomalies, either leading up to Election Day, or on Election Day, that could cause a wait time for the result. 

So people should be aware; people should take note. If they see things that seem wrong, they should report them. We at the Working Families Party have created something called The Frontline, which is a partnership with the Movement for Black Lives and the Rising Majority. 

We started recruiting poll workers when we heard that there weren’t going to be enough poll workers to actually operate all the polling places in the country. We have recruited a number of volunteers to be poll watchers, where people go out to polling places and make sure that things aren’t wild. But they aren’t people intimidating folks at the polls. 

(They ensure) if there’s food, that there’s water, that people understand what they should expect so that they don’t leave the line, that they don’t stop voting because they feel uncomfortable. And we have a bunch of legal volunteers to make sure that like when you report something that you see that happened in the polling place that is wrong, that you have somebody to support you.

Here are a few excerpts from our conversation with Aimee Castenell. You can also listen to the whole episode, which includes a conversation with The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson here here.

And go ahead and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Acast or wherever else you get your podcasts to stay informed about the South this election season.

On how folks can get involved with any kind of campaign regardless of their level of expertise. 

People can do all kinds of things to help out. You don’t have to be a lawyer to be helpful. You can order pizza, and bring it and hand out slices to people. I mean, wear a mask, obviously, and have hand sanitizer, because COVID is real. But you can do lots of things. You can bring bottles of water. You can hand out PPE. There are lots of people collecting masks for folks who are going to be waiting in these lines. You could volunteer to bring somebody to the polls because they can’t get there otherwise. You can volunteer to watch somebody’s kids. You don’t have to have some kind of advanced degree to be helpful ever. But certainly not when it comes to voting. Voting should be, ideally. Democracy should be for everyone. And voting should be easy. And people should be able to do it at every level of society.

On overcoming apathy, building the bench 

How you inoculate people against apathy around voting is to let them know that you might not win this one but doesn’t mean that you’re out of it. Because there’s going to be another election. You can try again. And we’ve learned something from running this election so that the next time we do it, we’ll do it better. We have more resources. We have more people that how the system works. So we’ll be able to make better choices — all of those things are important. So like, that’s part of it. Building a bench includes helping people understand how the process works. 

Reckon Interview Season Three