Everything Evanston: Indivisible Evanston Pivots Amid Pandemic

Alexa Crowder, Reporter

Indivisible Evanston worked throughout the Trump administration to resist its agenda and ensure a Democratic victory in 2020. When COVID-19 hit, leaders and volunteers pivoted to a virtual format in order to continue voter registration and get-out-the-vote initiatives, along with other campaigns in the election year. 

ALEXA CROWDER: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Alexa Crowder. And this is Everything Evanston. 

ALEXA CROWDER: Indivisible Evanston was formed in 2017, shortly after the inauguration of former President Donald Trump, when four groups of friends in Evanston came together with the goal of resisting Trump’s agenda. About a month into the Biden administration, Everything Evanston talked with some of its members to reflect on their past efforts and look toward the future of Indivisible Evanston’s work under President Biden.   

For the first three years of the administration, Indivisible Evanston took action supporting progressive policies and candidates through canvassing, rallies, writing postcards and more. 

PEGGY MCCARTHY: Mostly we called schools, high schools, community colleges, colleges to see if we could register voters. We registered voters at the Northwestern games. We registered voters at the “L” stops. We registered voters at Oakton Community College, in particular. 

ALEXA CROWDER: That was Peggy McCarthy, an Evanston resident and Indivisible Evanston volunteer. She led the organization’s voter registration efforts throughout much of Trump’s term. And her work was fueled by a singular goal.

PEGGY MCCARTHY: My motivation was always to do whatever it took, within the law, to make sure that this man did not have a second term.

ALEXA CROWDER: McCarthy’s efforts took her to Wisconsin, a key swing state in the 2020 presidential election. She drove there multiple times to register voters at Milwaukee DMVs. SESP junior Bobby Read also focused on Wisconsin when he got involved with Indivisible Evanston through the University’s Center for Civic Engagement (as a student in SESP’s Civic Engagement Seminar.) Last Winter Quarter, Read helped organize a postcard campaign from the Northwestern campus to encourage Wisconsin residents to vote in the spring primaries. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, Indivisible Evanston was forced to pivot and adapt their election year efforts to a virtual format. Read and his fellow Northwestern volunteers reacted by implementing textbanking, a digital form of phone banking that involves sending mass waves of text messages with a simple political ask.

BOBBY READ: Spring quarter, we had to transfer to online, so we created a text banking campaign and recruited about 20 or 25 students from Northwestern. And we sent over 18,000 text messages across three different days of texting to voters in Florida, Pennsylvania and a lot of these key states in the election. And we were able to send text messages through a really simple program, and help Indivisible out in that regard.

ALEXA CROWDER: Throughout his time partnering with the organization, Read appreciated the passion of Indivisible Evanston’s members. 

BOBBY READ: I had never been a part of a grassroots organization, never that in-depth, and so being able to see that firsthand was really interesting and just really eye-opening. It was a very comprehensive campaign, and there was a lot that needed to get done, but there were so many people that were excited about it and energized that they were able to accomplish a lot of things. 

ALEXA CROWDER: Indivisible Evanston Co-Leader Rosie Rees was particularly fond of postcard parties over Zoom, a virtual adaptation of a long-standing Indivisible event. 

ROSIE REES: One of the big actions that we’ve done since, really, 2018 has been postcards for all kinds of candidates and issues, etc. And we discovered that we can even use Zoom to have postcard parties. It’s like, you and I and, you know, 20 other people, and what we would do is we’d split up into small groups, into breakout rooms. And we’d have, you know, anywhere between four and six or seven people in a room. People were just sitting in their kitchen, writing postcards and chatting. And people just wanted to come back again and again and again.

ALEXA CROWDER: The postcard campaigning intensified after the general election, when Indivisible Evanston sent out 185,000 postcards encouraging likely Democratic voters in Georgia to get to the polls for the senate run-offs there in January. Looking ahead, into President Biden’s term, Indivisible Evanston still plans on taking plenty of action. Rees has already started plotting the organization’s next moves.

ROSIE REES: We started pretty much in January and said, ‘okay, it’s time to start working again.’ And we want to make sure that our members know that we’re happy everybody could breathe the sigh of relief, but now it’s time to stop breathing a sigh of relief and get back to work. 

ALEXA CROWDER: This month, according to Rees, Indivisible Evanston will be working to understand the concerns of rural Trump voters. 

ROSIE REES: What do we need in our community, here in the urban community, to know about people in the rural parts of the country? Why do they continue to vote for Trump? What do they need? What do they want? What do we need to do to help them so that they don’t feel like they need to vote for Trump? So we’re right back at it again. 

ALEXA CROWDER: That’s all for this episode of Everything Evanston. I’m Alexa Crowder. Thanks for listening! This episode was reported and produced by me, Alexa Crowder. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Alex Chun, the digital managing editors are Molly Lubbers and Olivia Yarvis and the editor in chief is Sneha Dey.

Clarification: A previous version of this story did not specify that Read’s involvement with the Center for Civic Engagement was through the SESP Civic Engagement Certificate. The story has been updated accordingly. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AlexaCrowder

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