This is a big election year. Not only is it a presidential election year, but every state will be electing members to Congress, and thirty-three states will be electing a federal Senator.
The majority of states will also be electing state house and senate members. In addition to all these federal and state offices, many local elections will also be taking place. And all of these elections – particularly on the state and local levels – will have a direct impact on your rights as a dog owner, exhibitor, and breeder.
This year's general election will be conducted under new circumstances unlike any we have experienced before. Yet it is still absolutely essential that clubs, breeders, sportsmen and exhibitors work to ensure that candidates are elected that will protect our dogs and our sport.
Candidates and party leaders have indicated that it is now more important than ever to have a dedicated group of volunteers to support campaign efforts in new and creative ways– especially given that fundraising and typical campaign activities are much more challenging. Volunteers who help candidates early and when their help is most needed, may be more likely to have the ear of grateful lawmakers when important issues come up in the future.
In a typical election year, volunteers may go door-to-door with a candidate, work at a phone bank, local fair or festival, or host a meet and greet with family and friends.
But in this day of “stay at home” orders, social distancing and limits on the size of gatherings, what can you do to help candidates be successful so we can be assured that we have the right elected officials making the laws that impact all responsible dog owners and breeders?
Even as restrictions begin to lift, many of the traditional campaign activities will be difficult to organize. Here are a few suggestions that you or your club can consider to help support and promote dog-friendly candidates:
- Instead of working at a phonebank, ask for a list of voters that you can call from the comfort of your own home.
- Ask the campaign for position statements that you can use to make informed supportive posts on various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter so your followers can be informed about the candidate. You may want to consider using AKC’s candidate survey for ideas.
- Work with the campaign to develop messaging that can easily be used to do “text banking” to your contact list on your smartphone.
- Instead of the traditional in person meet and greet, organize and host a virtual meeting between the candidate and your friends and neighbors or club members by using programs such Zoom, WebEx or Facebook live.
- Work with the candidate to set up a conference call meeting or virtual town meeting for clubs in your community to provide them with a forum to get their message out.
- Commit to mailing post cards or letters to your friends and neighbors, encouraging them to vote for your candidate.
- If your local election services office allows it, get a list of people who have requested absentee or mail-in ballots and send them a note about why they should support your candidate.
- Finally, make sure that all your club members, colleagues, family, friends and neighbors know the deadlines for getting and submitting absentee or mail in ballots – and make sure they show up at the polls and vote on election day.
Knowing that this election year will be unlike any other, candidates will likely need to do more direct mail and paid advertising - which can be very expensive. As such, there is one more important way you can support your favorite candidate: Seriously consider supporting their campaign financially and encourage others to do the same.
AKC has a political action committee where 100 percent of the contributions go directly to help dog-friendly candidates. Big or small, any contribution you and your club members can make will go a long way in helping to protect dogs and their responsible owners by electing candidates that will support reasonable and responsible dog laws. Visit www.akc.org/pac for more information and to donate online.
While this is a year of many changes and uncertainty – one thing has not changed: the need to protect the rights of dog owners, exhibitors, sportsmen and breeders. Using these suggestions and spreading the word to fellow members and colleagues about the importance of voting for dog-friendly candidates will help ensure the protection of these essential rights for years to come.