DALLAS — It’s not about political sides, but about registering as many elderly residents in underserved communities throughout Dallas as possible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In roughly under a week, the Dallas Democratic Party made more than 1,200 calls to “Get Out the Vaccine.”
“One of the things that we heard for this week and the concern from Republicans on the other side is that we’re making this a partisan issue,” said Joanna Cattanach, Dallas County Democratic Party development director. “It’s not, because you cannot register by parties in Texas — number one. Number two — we are calling all people 75 and over in these precincts, so I know I registered Republicans on Saturday and I don’t care and that’s the point. We’re just helping people.”
The organization’s target audience consists of those 75 years old and up and 64 years old to 74 years old. The group’s also focusing on reaching seniors who have registered landlines in low-income zip codes across the city.
“This is likely the areas and demographics we feel are probably the most likely to not have internet access, which is what we’re finding to be true as well,” Cattanach said.
As city and county officials grapple with finding ways to give people without access to the internet a place to sign-up, such as vaccination registration hubs, the Dallas County Democratic Party has taken the matter into their own hands by doing what they can to address the digital disparities.
“We uniquely have access to phone banking software, databases with phone numbers and addresses and ages and names of people, the ability to mass text and skilled volunteers who have done this before and they just came off campaigns in November,” Cattanach said. “So, it made sense and we reached out to a couple frustrated council members and said, ‘would you like some help?’ and it literally took a day to put it together.”
So far, the Dallas Democratic Party has implemented phone-banking via Zoom and going door-to-door as a means to connect with residents. But, Cattanach has seen other community groups take a different approach to the vaccination registration.
“We chose to do door knocks and phone calls to initially get out,” she said. “Others have chosen open tabling, so they just pop a table up at Fiesta Mart or a restaurant or wherever they are putting tables up — mostly in Oak Cliff. They have laptops out there and they are just registering on the spot.”
The Dallas County Democratic Party has also teamed up with Rideshare2Vote, which will provide rides to residents to vaccination sites free-of-charge. A spin-off from the election slogan, the democratic party says “Get Out the Vaccine” has spread throughout social media and word-of-mouth.
“There was confusion and there is delay and the communities need was growing and the response was not fast enough,” said Cattanach. “We have resources that are unique. We know how to get out the vote. We use the exact same tools and processes, but we just put vaccine in front of it.”
In addition to the more than 1,000 calls made to seniors, volunteers have sent at least 4,600 text messages alerting people to registration information. But, Cattanach notes that those texts come with a price.
“We actually need people to pay for those text messages, too,” she said. “So, we are fundraising for that. They are cheap, but it still costs us to send thousands of text messages.”
In a week’s time, at least 250 people have volunteered their time to aid in the group’s effort to register people. And the party’s project has already started to have a ripple effect, according to Cattanach.
“We’ve been contacted by group’s that say we don’t necessarily need the Dallas County Democratic Party to come in and help me, but could you tell me what flyer you used and how did you do it?,” she said. “So, we’re looking at Richardson and I’m meeting with some folks in Tarrant County this evening via Zoom. I’ve talked with people across the state who also saw this and said, ‘how did you do it, what parameters did you work with and that’s what we’ve been doing’.”
On Saturday and Sunday, volunteers will canvass more neighborhoods, including South Dallas and Pleasant Grove. Bethel AME Church in South Dallas will host a COVID-19 Vaccine Registration Drive starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. For Cattanach and others, it’s been a family affair when it comes to signing people up. And as long as it’s need, the Dallas County Democratic Party will continue to work to try to meet it no matter party lines.
“I walked Pleasant Grove Sunday and I had a man come out and I registered him and then he came back out again and said, ‘can you register my wife?’, and then he came back out again and said, ‘can you register my son?’,” she said. “One of the gentlemen in the neighborhood looked me up and down and got out of his car and said, ‘why are you here? I told him what I was doing he said, ‘thank you, because this is on us to do something and then he walked me down the street and pointed at every house that had a senior citizen he knew would probably need help signing-up.”
To help volunteer, visit: http://dcdp.link/GetOutTheVaccine and for more information on the vaccine, visit dallascityhall.com/covid19 or call 214-670-INFO (4636), and to sign up, visit Dallas County’s website here.