Midpeninsula Post

Democratic Volunteer Center reopens in-person for midterm elections

The Democratic Volunteer Center's grand opening in September 2021. (Raj Virginkar)

It’s that time of the year again, the final months leading up to the November midterm elections, which means one thing’s for certain: The Democratic Volunteer Center is up and running.

The DVC, dubbed “democracy central” by Representative Anna Eshoo, held its grand opening last week in Mountain View, marking its return to a physical space after 2020 presidential election efforts were conducted almost exclusively virtually.

The event hosted speakers including Eshoo, Santa Clara County Supervisors Joe Simitian and Otto Lee and Mountain View Mayor Lucas Ramirez, along with a range of other elected officials and politically involved attendees.

“People of all backgrounds showed up today for this important kickoff,” Eshoo said. “They’re sophisticated volunteers. I’m very proud of them. There isn’t an ounce of selfishness here.”

Representative Anna Eshoo delivers a speech at the DVC's grand opening. (Raj Virginkar)

WHAT IS THE DVC?

Although it’s got a new location, the DVC is by no means new. According to DVC Chair and Operations Director Pam Salvatierra, the center was founded in 2010 with the goal of providing volunteers with the infrastructure and resources needed to elect Democrats across the country. 

“The local race is obviously important,” DVC Board Member Lawrence Byrd said. “But the people who are down here, you know that on some level they will largely vote Democrat. And so the DVC is saying ‘You have a lot of energy, would you like to spend some somewhere else too?’”

The DVC opened its first office in 2012 and has been active in every presidential election since then, Salvatierra said. According to the website, it garnered recognition from both the Obama and Clinton campaigns in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

“So that’s really exciting when their [presidential] campaigns come in,” Salvatierra said. “I mean, you get a lot of big energy for presidential [elections], but we do the in-betweens, like now, as well.”

Volunteers at the DVC can choose from an array of volunteering options, including canvassing — going to people’s houses door by door — phone banking, letter writing, postcard writing and texting. In 2020, DVC volunteers made nearly one million get-out-the-vote calls, sent more than three million texts and hand-wrote more than 200,000 postcards and letters, according to the DVC website.

Byrd said the center also collaborates with many local activist and volunteer organizations. One way it does that is by lending its office a temporary space for the months leading up to the election — for meetings. The DVC office is typically in a new location each time it opens.

“Part of the goal of the DVC is, this is a free space, we’re not going to charge you to come in and use it,” he said. “If you want to have a big meeting, we’ll do the AV, you have a room anytime you want.”

DVC Chair and Operations Director Pam Salvatierra poses for a photo at the DVC's grand opening. (Raj Virginkar)

GETTING INVOLVED

Toward the back of the DVC office lies a row of computers reserved for what Salvatierra describes as the “backbone” of the DVC: phone banking. 

According to Byrd and Salvatierra, phone banking is the “second best” option, coming right after canvassing. Salvatierra said face-to-face interaction allows volunteers to better engage voters, increase voter registration and allow people to ask questions they might have about candidates. Byrd said the DVC hosts these canvassing trips in conjunction with the California Democratic Party.

“We’re fortunate that we’re within driving distance of Central Valley in California, where there’s a lot of seats that we want to win,” Byrd said. “So people can get in a bus and spend the weekend canvassing.”

And this time around, Salvatierra said that many have been “ignited” by Donald Trump’s presidency and the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“It [the Dobbs decision] is galvanizing people, especially women,” Salvatierra said. “Not just hardcore doubters but middle-of-the-road people who maybe they don’t identify with any party exactly. And we need those people. Those are the people that will turn the tide.”

Volunteers can also attend a variety of group volunteering events at the DVC office, or participate from the comfort of their homes. As November approaches, the DVC will be open and staffed every day. On the four days surrounding election day, volunteers will be phone banking from the office all day, from 5 a.m. onward, Byrd said. 

Salvatierra said that while a lot of DVC volunteers are on the older side, people of all ages are welcome to help out. According to Salvatierra, the youngest volunteer they’ve had on the phone was 14 or 15.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian delivers a speech at the DVC's grand opening. (Raj Virginkar)

“It is no exaggeration to say that an operation like the DVC literally may make the difference between whether democrats or republicans have control of the house, have control of the Senate,” Simitian said. “And that will make the difference in terms of policy decisions that can affect the country for decades to come.”

The Democratic Volunteer Center is open at 2124 W El Camino Real, Mountain View from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday though Friday, and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday through Sunday. Click here to sign up to volunteer with the DVC.

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