PA State Representative Summer Lee 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.

Next us is Summer Lee, Pa State Representative District 34. Summer Lee

Your Name: Summer L. Lee

Your Pronouns: she, her, hers

How do you describe your identity? More than anything, I identify as a fighter. Standing up with and for people who are marginalized has always been the driving force in my life, and is the reason why I decided to run two years ago. As the first Black woman from Western PA to hold the office of state rep, I’m still familiar with feeling like an outsider. I know how important it is that we allow everyone’s voices to be heard; not just a few. That’s why I’ve fought for legislation that protects and empowers the most vulnerable people in our commonwealth, including those in the LGBT+ community.

Please describe the current status of campaigns and elections in Pennsylvania. Campaigns in Pennsylvania are shifting their resources to online, mail, phone, and text to engage voters in lieu of being able to have face-to-face gatherings and canvassing door to door.

What is specifically happening with your campaign or campaigns that you work for? Our campaign is facing a competitive primary, our opponent Chris Roland is backed by Rich Fitzgerald, endorsed by the building trades and the Allegheny County Democratic Committee. As a result of covid-19, we closed our office to encourage folks to honor the stay at home order and switched voter contact to non-physical forms of communication.

How have you or your campaigns adapted to the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic? During this time people need strong leadership, if they have found themselves unexpectedly unemployed and wondering how to make ends meet, or figuring out how to home school, or even dealing directly with the virus itself – now is the time to help each other through, to share resources, and to do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus.

We have readjusted our messaging to connect voters to resources during this crisis, as well as keep them informed on changes to the election date and encouraging them to vote by mail this election.

What forms of digital engagement have you incorporated into your campaign? We have incorporated Facebook, Twitter, email, virtual phone banking, and predictive dialer.

In Pennsylvania, what are our options for voting? What are the concerns about the actual election day activities?  During the unprecedented and ongoing crisis we are currently facing with COVID-19, it has become especially important to automatically provide mail-in ballots for residents, and I am proud of this county’s efforts to ensure Allegheny voters all receive such a ballot. I hope to see this effort replicated through the Commonwealth.

We are pushing no excuse Vote by Mail this election, to ensure the safety of all voters and do our part to flatten the curve. We are encouraging folks to continue to social distance and vote on the issues to ensure we never again face a situation like this one.

Where can Pennsylvania voters find the best current information? Visit http://votespa.com/ to apply for a mail in ballot or find the most current information on the primary election. To watch a step by step video explaining how to apply for your ballot, you can visit https://www.summerforpa.com/covid.html. Also there will be resources such as unemployment, small businesses, food banks and more that you may find useful during these trying times.

How can supporters get involved with campaigns while practicing social distancing and other protocols?  The predicament that we’re all in has definitely changed the ways in which we’re able to bring people into the fold. We’ve ceased all door knocking, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped reaching out to people. Supporters are welcome to sign up on our website and follow us on social media to stay up to date. We have opportunities for virtual phone banking daily and organize mega phone banks weekly. Additionally, people can sign up to send postcards, and organize their immediate community in voting by mail. Interested people should reach out to the Campaign via email at [email protected] to get involved, and to have any questions or concerns addressed.

What happens now that the PA Primary Election is postponed? Because the primary has been postponed, we have extra time available to us to help people. As we identify folks that are struggling during this time it’s important to provide them with resources. Summer often talks about the intersectionality of the issues she fights for; Medicare For All, Unions For All, Educational Equity, and Environmental Protection. During a crisis like the one we’re currently in, you see the need for all of these things laid bare, with the poorest communities being affected the most. We have to continue to fight to ensure every voice in the district is heard.

Who makes that decision? Legislators in both houses of the General Assembly decided that it was in the best interest of all Pennsylvanian’s to postpone the election, as did Governor Wolf. No one should have to choose between safety and making their voices heard.

Where can readers find you or your campaign on social media.

https://www.summerforpa.com

https://www.facebook.com/SummerForPA/

https://twitter.com/SummerForPA

Thank you, Summer.

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