Monday, July 27, 2015

South Hampton Roads for Bernie, Meeting Minutes, 7/27/2015

South Hampton Roads for Bernie held its second meeting on June 27, 2015. This group is a grassroots group and not funded by the official campaign. We are rolling up our sleeves and doing what we can to help Bernie succeed in the state of Virginia while we wait for the official campaign to reach us. We also network with similar groups, mainly Northern Virginia for Bernie Sanders and  the Virginians for Bernie 2016 volunteer hub.

Twelve people attended, a huge increase from our first meeting (two people). The first vice chairman of the Chesapeake Democratic Party, Ken Ehrenthal, attended. He encouraged us to advocate for Bernie through his group's monthly meetings and to post our activities on its Facebook page. We met at the Cutting Edge Café and were thrilled when Melanie Hayes, one of its owners, finished her shift and joined our discussion. I gave her-- as well as most of the others who attended-- a pro-Bernie button to wear.

We began by sharing a little about ourselves, explaining why we like Bernie (or what we most want to know about him), and announcing any previous experience with political campaigns and/or skills that our group might find useful. We  are an interesting group with a diverse range of skills who mostly "feel the Bern," as social media put it. Some members were students, another a teacher, some were retirees, and others business owners or managers. Attendees also had a wide range of useful skills or experiences: organizing events, social media, political campaigning, writing, graphic design (and possibly video editing), sales skills, and more.

Reasons for supporting Bernie also varied widely: health care for all, protecting our environment, disgust with political corruption and the influence of Wall Street, or gratitude for how he has protected our veterans and wounded warriors. He takes a firm and unwavering stand on issues, he refuses to take money from big corporations or super PACS, and he plans to put money toward much-needed infrastructure and public services. Public funding of political campaigns, which Bernie supports, would even the playing field between the populace and the super-rich. More specifically, a few of us were upset by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and would like to see a reintroduction of some type of Glass-Steagall Act. Bernie supports overturning the former and bringing back the latter.

We then reviewed the basics. Most of us are already registered voters in Virginia, but a couple of us need to update our registration. I mentioned that it is often easy to register online. Ken advocates for registering at the Chesapeake Registrar's Office rather than the DMV. We made sure everyone knew to register, too, as a volunteer on Bernie's official campaign website,, if they hadn't already done so. We also reminded everyone that the national house-party/video conference by Bernie on Wednesday (7/29) is important to the campaign, and that they can use this site to sign up for or host an event near them.

We mentioned some simple and inexpensive ways that all of us can help Bernie's campaign: wear pro-Bernie t-shirts and buttons, put up a yard sign, and dedicate time and space for Bernie through whatever social media we use. For buttons and bumper stickers, some of us prefer to shop through Bernie's official campaign website, The advantage is that all the official merchandise is union-made in the United States, and any money paid goes directly to Bernie's campaign. The disadvantage is that right now it takes a very long time for the orders to arrive. Others of us may search online on sites like to see what is available. The only advantage is that it might arrive a little faster.

In our area, Bernie lacks name recognition, and that needs to change. Yard signs, buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers can help with name recognition. Keep conversations positive and not pushy. Bernie doesn't run a negative campaign, and neither should we, but we should be prepared to share the facts and an accurate representation of Bernie's positions and character.

Our most urgent need is to get Bernie on the ballot for the primary in Virginia. The state-wide goal is to get 400 petition signatures on petitions from registered voters in each district in Virginia. While 200 valid signatures are needed per district, we anticipate some of the signatures will be challenged or thrown out, so we will collect double that amount. Our initial deadline is October 1. Contact- and collection-points are being established in each district; I am the contact person for District 4. We reviewed a slide presentation on how to go about doing this. The forms must be filled out carefully and the circulator or witness must have his or her own signature notarized at the bottom of the back page. A circulator cannot sign his or her own petition except at the bottom notary portion, which must not be signed until the notary public is available and tells us to.

Each volunteer petition-circulator is in charge of getting his or her own paperwork notarized before turning it in. As an example, I collected signatures from every available registered voter there. We had separate sheets for District 4/Chesapeake and District 2/Virginia Beach. A separate sheet must be made for each district and each city or county within the district. The last four numbers of the signer's social security number is not required, but it's recommended to help with quick and accurate validation of signatures by the Board of Elections. I collected the forms after they were signed and will get them notarized at my earliest convenience. Additional suggestions for collecting signatures is on this Google Doc. Several volunteers took petitions to begin collecting signatures.

Ken and I both pointed out that we should work on getting signatures first, then work on promoting Bernie if the signers seem open to it. A signature does not mean a vote for Bernie. It just means that the signer thinks Bernie's name should be on the ballot in the primary. It's a matter of ballot access for a serious candidate. The petition signatures are very important, because without them, Bernie can't appear on the ballot in March. I mentioned that if we are petitioning in a public place, like in front of a business, and the management asks us to move along, we should be pleasant and do so. But Ken also told us that anyone actually interfering with petitioning (like taking the petitions or getting violent or tearing them up) is breaking federal law. In a situation like that, call 911. Hopefully we won't need to do that, but it's good to know.

Two members, Stephen and Erica, both from Virginia Beach, promised to become notary publics to help notarize campaign petitions as they come in. They also promised to collect and seal petitions for District 2 and to send them to me (Mary Lou Burke, District 4). I will collect for the statewide group,and, thus, Bernie Sanders' campaign, as they come in. December 10, 2015, is the final deadline for Sanders' candidacy to present the sealed petitions in Richmond, but we intend to supply all the signatures we can well before then; hopefully by October 1. Several attendees took blank petitions to circulate.

Presidential Primary Election Day in Virginia will be on March 1, 2016. Please mark your calendars accordingly. The turnout for primary elections in Virginia is historically low. Ken estimated that Bernie could win Virginia primary with as few as three hundred votes per district in the state. How exciting! Encourage Bernie supporters to register to vote and to vote in the primary.

I wanted to show two movies at our meeting but didn't get the chance. I'll mention them here, anyway, in case others want to watch. One was his official campaign video, "Progress." Another was a grassroots video on how to help Bernie by Melanie Fisher.

Our next meeting will be on a Monday evening in August. I will figure out the details and publicize them through the South Hampton Roads for Bernie Facebook Page. Melanie graciously offered our group the use of the Cutting Edge Café after hours to hold the event. In the meantime, I have extra blank petitions to circulate. If anyone needs forms, they can run them off of the state elections website or contact me and I will provide some.

No comments:

Post a Comment