Candidate for PA State House Jessica Benham Describes Digital Campaigning During a Pandemic

I asked a few campaigns to weigh in on the new tactics and strategies they will be relying on to move ahead with critical elections. What is still possible? What is newly possible? How can we help from our homes?

You can read our candidate Q&A’s here.

Also, check out our Q&A’s about the Pennsylvania Primary Election.

First up is Jessica Benham. Jessica Benham

Your Name: Jessica Benham
Your Pronouns: she/her
Your Affilation(s): Democrat running for State House District 36

How do you describe your identity? I’m a bisexual woman with a disability.

Please describe the current status of campaigns and elections in Pennsylvania. As far as we have heard and seen, campaigns across the state have either shut down or gone entirely remote. Across the state, canvassing and in-person events have been canceled and staff are working remotely. The primary has been moved to June 2, from April 28.

What is specifically happening with your campaign or campaigns that you work for? We’ve canceled all in-person events and door-knocking for the foreseeable future.

How have you or your campaigns adapted to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic? We’re focused entirely on phone and digital communications, and acting as much as possible as a resource to people–whether that’s adding some joy with cat pictures or connecting them to community resources and information.

What forms of digital engagement have you incorporated into your campaign? We’ve increased our social media and email use, and we’ve been exploring options to be able to engage live on social media (last week, I got to show off my cats and host a virtual house party).

In Pennsylvania, what are our options for voting? What are the concerns about the actual election day activities? We’ve got a couple options in terms of voting here in Pennsylvania. You can vote in-person as we always have. If you’ll be out of your district or know that an illness or disability will keep you from voting, you can apply for an absentee ballot. For the first time this year, however, you can apply for a mail-in ballot for any other reason or no reason at all. 

We’ve been encouraging everyone to apply for a mail-in ballot (or an absentee, if they qualify), as there are several concerns about primary election day. The first is that folks understandably won’t want or be able to get out to vote in-person out of concern for coronavirus. The other is that, out of that same concern, there will be difficulty recruiting and training people to work at the polls, which could in turn lead to consolidating polling locations and bigger crowds–which only worsens concerns over social distancing and coronavirus at the polls.

Where can Pennsylvania voters find the best current information? Both the State website––and the County website– are useful and authoritative resources.

How can supporters get involved with campaigns while practicing social distancing and other protocols?  Campaigns still need your help! Many campaigns are still making calls and sending postcards to voters, both of which can be done remotely. Reach out to the campaigns you were supporting (or meaning to support) before all of this. Campaigns will also have to increase their investment and reliance on paid media–things like mail and digital ads–so donating to campaigns that you support, if you’re able, is more important than ever.

What happens now that the PA Primary Election is postponed? We’re adjusting our plan with every new piece of information. Our campaign, like everyone else’s, will need to run for an extra five weeks, but I’m excited for the opportunity to have more time to talk to more voters and ensure that everyone will have a chance to vote in a way that is safe for them.

Who makes that decision? A bill went through the state legislature last week and was signed by Governor Wolf on Friday.

Where can readers find you or your campaign on social media

Thank you, Jessica



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