Last month I visited their Dallas headquarters, a bare-bones office in a strip mall off an expressway. I was curious to learn more about their efforts to turn out low-income voters in neighborhoods that have become disenfranchised — areas politicians avoid because of their low turnout, making residents even less inclined to vote, until whole communities are left out of politics altogether.
What does that mission look like up close? The day I arrived, about 80 people in blue T-shirts sat in chairs, listening to a pep talk before heading out to knock on doors. Many of them had found their way to TOP through fliers that advertised $15-an-hour work. But once they were hired, trainers underscored a sense of political urgency and possibility.
“We’re knocking on doors of people that look just like us,” a man told the group. “Every conversation matters. This is not just a job.”
It usually takes three connections — a door knock, a call and an offer of a ride to the polls — to make sure a low-frequency voter actually casts a ballot.
In a small nearby room, Shetamia Taylor, a charismatic canvas manager, called on people to practice their scripts, giving pointers about how to generate rapport. Listening was key. Only after a conversation, she said, did you tell voters that “Beto O’Rouke understands the issues,” or that John Creuzot, a district attorney candidate, is “on our side.”
A paper on the wall reminds Ms. Taylor’s group of their goals over the next two weeks: knock on 8,905 doors; get 1,188 commitments to vote. They are but one piece of a much larger project that aims to reach 72,000 doors in Dallas County before the midterm election, in order to turn out 26,000 infrequent voters.
To organizers like Kimberly Olsen, the political field director who helped establish the organization, turning Texas blue is not a mysterious or elusive goal. It simply boils down to math. This year, she said, the numbers may not add up for Democrats outside of the big cities. But someday they could get there.