Q&A Election 2020: Nat Yap, Political Activist with the Order of the Phoenix

Nat Yap Pennsylvania Democrat
Photo courtesy of Nat Yap.

This is a new limited-Q&A series focusing on Election Day. I’ve approached an array of regional folks to ask them the same seven questions about the election. This election is complicated in ways we never thought possible, but there are paths forward.

Listening to what our neighbors are prioritizing and how they are framing the Biden/Harris ticket in particular is an urgent duty for each of us. I will be publishing as these are returned to me and will field new requests to contribute at [email protected]

Up next is Nat Yap a well-known, thoughtful political strategist and campaign expert here in Allegheny County.

I will NOT be canceling my Vote-by-Mail ballot application, as some are trying to do. County elections offices already have plenty of work to do this election cycle, and I don’t want to add to their workload and potentially cause further confusion. Once I receive my Vote-by-Mail ballot in the mail, I plan to take it into the Allegheny County Elections office downtown and submit it in person as soon as I possibly can, which will effectively allow me to vote early ahead of Election Day. For those who cannot submit their Vote-by-Mail ballot in person, I strongly encourage you to drop in the mail immediately upon receipt.

Your Name: Nathaniel (“Nat”) Yap
Your Pronouns: he/him/his
Your Affiliations: FB Moderator on political activist group The Order of the Phoenix

How do you describe your identity? Cis gay male

1. Why and how are you supporting the Biden/Harris ticket in the Presidential race? In every way I possibly can, including volunteering by phone and text banking with voters, registering voters and educating them about how to vote, tabling just outside farmers markets and passing out yard signs and bumper stickers, dollar contributions, and fundraising for the campaign. I will also be a poll worker on Election Day.

Most important though is trying to inspire and encourage as many people as possible to not only vote, but also to get involved actively – because this is a massive undertaking and there’s just too much at stake for all of us for any one person to sit on the sidelines, if they have the ability to help. There are numerous ways to contribute to the effort to get new leadership for our country.

2. What other Pennsylvania races on the “down ballot” should we be paying attention to as well? Every race everywhere in the state is important. I sense that more and more people thankfully are engaged around state legislative races, and increasingly see that when there are gross failures at the federal level, our next line of defense is our state government. I’m encouraged by the increased awareness around this, as well as the acknowledgement that the state legislature plays a key role in how federal and state legislative maps will be drawn which will apply for the next decade. We all also should be aware that there are important state-wide Attorney General, Auditor General, and Treasurer races on the ballot in Pennsylvania too.

3. What races outside of Pennsylvania should we be paying attention to? US Senate races in key states. It’s not a short list (which is good, because that means there are a number of US Senate candidates who have a plausible path to victory), but we should support Theresa Greenfield (IA), Sara Gideon (ME), Cal Cunningham (NC), Steve Bullock (MT), Jon Ossoff (GA), Gary Peters (MI), Jaime Harrison (SC), Barbara Bollier (KS), John Hickenlooper (CO), Raphael Warnock (GA), Al Gross (AK), MJ Hegar (TX), Doug Jones (AL), Mark Kelly (AZ), and Tina Smith (MN).

4. At this point in the race, where should I invest my $10 or $25 donation? If you have $10 or $25 to donate, pick the candidate, in any race, anywhere, who inspires you most. If you only have one candidate that you can financially support at this time, you want it to be someone you feel REALLY good about, not someone you feel like SHOULD support, but do so hesitantly, if that makes sense. Over the longer term, you’ll want to remain civically engaged, and you won’t stay that way if you don’t give yourself candidates to be excited about.

5. How important will Western Pennsylvania be in this election? Western Pennsylvania is absolutely critical to this election, and hence, to the future of our country. We need solid turnout in Allegheny County, we will need to minimize margins of loss in counties surrounding Allegheny, certainly relative to 2016, and I’m also of the view that the Presidential candidate who wins Erie County probably becomes the occupant of the White House come late January 2021. If you know folks up in Erie, please make sure they are voting.


Who do I know that lives in key battleground states or legislative districts (which often tend to be suburban districts)? We should be reaching out to these people and making sure they’re voting in every race, especially if they’re not the most politically-engaged individuals. This type of relational outreach to people in our networks is so effective and critical.


6. What is your voting plan? I applied for my mail-in ballot months ago, prior to the operational changes that have occurred at the US Postal Service. I will NOT be canceling my Vote-by-Mail ballot application, as some are trying to do. County elections offices already have plenty of work to do this election cycle, and I don’t want to add to their workload and potentially cause further confusion. Once I receive my Vote-by-Mail ballot in the mail, I plan to take it into the Allegheny County Elections office downtown and submit it in person as soon as I possibly can, which will effectively allow me to vote early ahead of Election Day. For those who cannot submit their Vote-by-Mail ballot in person, I strongly encourage you to drop in the mail immediately upon receipt.

How to Use Secrecy Envelope in Election
Nat is urging Pennsylvania folks to change social media avatars to this image.

Anyone who votes using a Vote-by-Mail ballot, please do not forget to place your completed ballot into the security envelope provided, place the security envelope into the exterior envelope, and sign the exterior envelope before submitting or mailing your ballot. This is extremely important: your vote will not be counted if you don’t do these things.

7. What else should I be asking? Every single one of us should be reaching out to everyone we know and making sure they have a plan to vote – social media reminder posts are fine (I do those myself), but personalized contact is most effective – a text, an email, a phone call, over a socially distanced and masked conversation over coffee, or maybe even the next time you’re on a Zoom with a friend or family member.

But one question I always ask myself every election is: Who do I know that lives in key battleground states or legislative districts (which often tend to be suburban districts)? We should be reaching out to these people and making sure they’re voting in every race, especially if they’re not the most politically-engaged individuals. This type of relational outreach to people in our networks is so effective and critical.

Thank you, Nat.


Q&A Election 2020 is a limited-series Q&A with Western Pennsylvania residents. We ask them the same seven questions to create a database of perspectives that are representative of our region. I want to galvanize your interest and participation in this election. Please read the entire series.

In Pennsylvania, you can find information on voting, working the polls, and candidate resources at Votes PA. Confirm your voter registration status, request a mail-in ballot and more.

Western Pennsylvania voters

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