COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: How We Can Immediately Make Our Democracy Work Better


As a candidate for judge, I am challenged to introduce myself to as many North Las Vegas residents as I can, deliver a succinct message to them explaining why someone should vote for me, and do this while meeting the same demands of career, family, and personal commitments that each of us balance in ordinary life. Community engagement is essential. This is a challenge that all candidates face in one way or another. This month, I would like to identify a problem with election campaigning, suggest a solution, and ask that you and other electoral candidates help me solve it.

 

The Problem

 

It never fails. As I handshake, share ideas and ask for votes, someone will ask, “Why am I just now seeing you? It would be better if candidates tried harder to introduce themselves to people if they want our vote.” It’s difficult in those moments to explain how there are over 142,000 North Las Vegas voters and that, if I found a way to meet 250 people a day, 5 days a week, that it would still take me over two years to do that. (That’s assuming that I never meet the same person twice.) In reality, I have just over 230 days to do as much as I can. Because after that, it’s a wrap. More importantly, no one wants to hear about how hard that is. As the candidate asking for support, that’s my problem to solve.

 

The most common solution tends to be mass marketing – the commercials that flood our television and radio stations. The glossy ads that fill our mailboxes the closer we get to any election. Or the inopportune knocks at our front door by strangers who want us to pay attention to politics at a moment where we didn’t expect to have to do that. I’m not going to lie – the broadcast ads are irritating because they run non-stop. The majority of the mailbox spam ends up in my recycling container, and the strangers who knock at my door can feel like an unwelcome interruption. Don’t get me started on the robo-calls…  Perhaps worst of all is that this largely wasted marketing is incredibly expensive. Only the candidates with deep pockets and/or generous donors can afford these marketing blitzes that cost tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. They do it because the 5% of people who don’t ignore the ads will remember their names. Fact - 5% of a million people is still more than enough to win a close election. Plenty of good candidates get drowned out or overlooked because they can’t afford to make a large enough impact. There needs to be a better, less wasteful way that voters who want to make good choices can learn important details about their candidates. And not just from the sound bites where every candidate makes themselves sound like a canonized saint, or the attack ads where rivals stoop to new lows to tear each other down.

 

That leaves grassroots appeal—the person-to-person popularity that spreads virally when people are excited about a candidate they identify with and support. But even that approach was greatly diminished by the arrival of COVID-19 and the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Not too many people show up at Meet the Candidate functions at their churches, homeowner’s associations, or clubs during a pandemic. To say the least, it was hard to be safe and focus on community politics at the same time.

 

The Solution

 

So, how can we solve the problem of giving the people access to their candidate choices at a convenient time and place of their choosing? I feel like the answer has literally been staring us in the face. During the pandemic, our local courts adopted a system of remote video appearances using software applications (or “apps”) like BlueJeans. This allowed parties to appear in court at a scheduled time, everyone seeing and hearing each other, but without actually appearing in court or having to wear a mask.

 

What if there were a way to electronically schedule a face-to-face meeting with candidates over an app that works on your smartphone, tablet, or desktop? (Think Zoom or Google Duo.) Imagine what life would be like if you could FaceTime your congressperson and give them a piece of your mind? It turns out that there are also apps that allow businesses to provide available appointment times for customers to choose from. (Think restaurant reservations, a medical appointment, or even DMV.)

 

Starting immediately, I am going to subscribe to a couple of apps. The first app will allow people who want to make good voting choices to schedule a 10-minute appointment to talk to me, face-to-face, via video conferencing. I will make times available where I can give them the attention they deserve and answer their questions about my campaign. I will give them the option of an individual or a group format. The app will notify me of the appointment and add it to my calendar, while providing a link for the voter to click on to begin the meeting. The second app will be a familiar video conferencing app that is free to download and easy to use.

 

Here’s how it should play out: Michelle McVoter sees an ad or a business card of mine and decides that she has questions that need answers before giving me her vote in November. Michelle scans a convenient QR code with her smartphone and is asked to select an appointment time from my available schedule that also works for her. Once she’s done that, she will be provided with a link and a notification in advance of her appointment. When the time comes, Michelle will click that link and appear in the conference room where I speak with her. (Far better than situations where a candidate talks at her from a podium before running off to their next engagement, right?) Together we’re finding a way to put candidates with the people who want to know more about them at a time that is convenient for both. We’re also getting rid of the wasted money, paper, and time that make election years dreadful. It’s really that simple.

 

Yes, We Can Do Better

 

I am a candidate for North Las Vegas Municipal Court Judge, Department 1. I’m looking for ways to make government more transparent, crime less common, police more accountable, courts more compassionate, and money less important in politics. I’ve thought long and hard about how to increase community engagement for my own campaign. While it was tempting to keep the solution offered above to myself until elected, I think it’s far too important a tool to treat as a secret. There is no reason that our candidates and elected officials should not be making themselves as available as possible to the people that they want to represent. As such, I hope that other candidates and officials borrow this idea and build on it to make our democracy more responsive and provide platforms for our citizens to be more engaged. I hope that interested voters request and promote it. Our communities benefit when more people vote.

 

Nevada is one of a handful of states that mails a ballot to every registered voter and accepts voting by mail. Additionally, more early voting locations will be active this year for in-person voting than ever before. My own campaign materials include a QR code that automatically assists anyone with registering to vote online with the Nevada Secretary of State right from their smartphone. Please help my community by explaining the importance of voting to others and helping them register. I would be grateful for your support in the upcoming General Election on November 8, 2022. Black Lives Matter.

 

Jonathan can be reached by email [email protected]. You can also visit his Web site at http://macarthurforjudge.com

Community Activism One Vote. One Voice. Politics Nevada