We are officially one day out until the general election, a time frame that many of us will undoubtedly remember and connect with feelings of anxiety, frustration and sadness. The past few months and weeks has also spurred difficult conversations with family and friends in regards to politics and who will best serve the country between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
The Commit2Five app was created by Jahan Shariff as one way to help manage these feelings, as well as an offering to ease into the election related blues coupled with the uncomfortable conversations it sometimes warrants.
The app takes you through a series of steps which help you determine whether you are registered to vote and helps you better determine who should make your contact list. At the end, a prompt invites you to also register to volunteer in your local community on Election Day.
The driving force behind Commit2Five is to inspire positive action that is both manageable and effective. This challenge urges you to make sure at least five people you know are ready to vote by Election Day. Through conversation and accountability, we can not only pledge to vote, but we can make sure others are doing the same!
We spoke to Shariff, the creator of Commit2Five about his thought process regarding developing the app and how to manage election fatigue in the midst of a tumultuous year.
MN: What specific event or series of events, whether they be personal or something witnessed led to Jahan creating Commit2Five?
Jahan Shariff: I believe that everyone, no matter what, has something they can do to help mobilize voters. The hard part is figuring out what to do. Commit2Five started during the 2018 midterms when I faced this problem myself. I typically like to volunteer or embed myself into a campaign supporting an issue or candidate that I care about. However, that year I wasn’t able to. Time went by, and next thing I knew, we were 10 days away from the election, and I’d done nothing! So, I sat down and thought about what I had access to. I had no money to spend, so the first thing I came up with was my experience. In a past life, I worked as a field organizer for President Obama’s re-election campaign in Florida and as a regional field director for Cory Booker in 2013.
One thing we were trained to do was to always ask our volunteers to recruit their friends to join the campaign. There’s nothing more persuasive than friends talking with friends, and neighbors talking with neighbors. I knew I could educate people on how to have those conversations, I just needed an audience. Fortunately, I had about 250 people subscribed to my email newsletter, because of a little travel blog I wrote about my trip to Asia earlier that year. I did some quick math, and I figured if I could get even half of my subscribers to talk to their family and friends about voting, then I could have a real impact! About 90 minutes later, I sent out an email announcing the #Commit2Five challenge, where each of us commits to making sure five people we know personally vote by Election Day. About 150 people participated, and we reached about 1000 voters in just 9 days!
MN: As society relies more and more on technology, do you believe that the collective burn out is attributed to our reliance on phones, computers and social media?
JS: I think we as humans need to develop ways to healthily manage all that is made possible by these new technologies.
MN: Can you explain why staying engaged in this election is crucial even if election fatigue is wearing down on us?
JS: Election and politics fatigue is real and should not be underestimated! Outside of the campaigns, this has been an abnormal and relentless four years; and no matter where you stand on the issues, you’re probably tired! But we’ve got to keep pushing through all the way until the last vote is counted, because the outcomes of elections are black and white: Either you win, or you lose. Winners write the rules. So, staying engaged is crucial, because we’ve got to win.
MN: What are some steps people can take when they start to feel overwhelmed by everything that is going on and compounded within the election fatigue which includes the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, racial injustice, and the mourning of what was?
JS: The first thing I would recommend is to take a moment to honor the fact that the emotions you are feeling are real, justified, and important. The second thing I would recommend is reaching out to your support network or to a person that you trust and telling them how you feel. While it is scary to be vulnerable with someone in that way, we shouldn’t underestimate how cathartic the simple act of giving voice to our feelings can be. Lastly, finding a therapist you connect with and having a dedicated space to focus on you can be transformative.
MN: What would Jahan suggest be a good starter line to engage one’s inner circle to visit Commit2Five?
JS: “Have you voted?”
If yes: “Great! Have you checked to see if your (husband, kid, sister, etc.) has voted too?”
If no: “Why not? What can I do to help?”
MN: What is your hope for Commit2Five in the future?
JS: have two hopes for Commit2Five: that we all come to understand that 1) we already have all of the power we need to do whatever we want to do, and that 2) our fates are tied to each other– that when we set someone else up for success, we all win.