When classifying volunteer activities, examples such as “sports volunteering,” “welfare volunteering,” and “environmental volunteering” are often cited. However, there is a type of volunteering that does not fit into any of these categories: “election volunteering.” This article will introduce election volunteering from the perspective of sports volunteering. We hope that more people will become interested in election volunteering and feel that it is accessible to them.
When it comes to election volunteering, you may have the impression that only people who support a particular candidate, party, or organization can do it. However, this is not necessarily the case. Just like how volunteers for a J-League soccer team do not necessarily have to be supporters of the team, the same can be said for election volunteering. That being said, it may be helpful for volunteers to have similar beliefs or orientations to create a lively atmosphere for discussion among volunteers.
The role of election volunteering varies greatly depending on the size and maturity of the campaign team. In J-League Division 1 teams, operational procedures and know-how have been established, and the roles of volunteers are well-defined. However, in Division 2 and Division 3, volunteers often end up doing anything and everything, and the boundary between the organizing team and the volunteers becomes ambiguous. This kind of relationship is also applicable to election volunteering.
The author’s first experience with election volunteering was for a rookie independent candidate without any support from a political party or organization. On the first day of volunteering, the author was asked for opinions on “election strategy,” which was a surprising experience. However, the high degree of freedom in election volunteering is directly proportional to the “difficulty” but also to the “reward” and “fun” that comes with it. Just as one chooses sports volunteering based on the amount of free time available, it may be a good idea to choose election volunteering based on the same criteria. However, all campaign teams are always in need of volunteers, even if only for 15 minutes. Thus, if you do decide to volunteer, be prepared to set boundaries and say no to unreasonable requests. Otherwise, you might find yourself being bogged down by worries.
In any case, the experience gained from volunteering is invaluable (similar to the role names of volunteers in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games for the UAC).
Additionally, there may be a bodyguard role for rare occasions when candidates are confronted by unknown people. Nowadays, it is rare for anyone to physically harm a candidate, but it is not unusual to encounter strange people who shout abuse at them during the campaign period. Do you remember people who complain to volunteers after the marathon roadblocks? I think it is quite similar in both content and frequency.
Also, there is a significant event that does not fit into any of the roles for the Tokyo 2020 volunteers. This event occurs on the day of public notification of candidates (one to two weeks before the voting day) when posters are put up on election boards throughout the city (or district). Several hundred election boards made of plywood are set up at places where people gather, such as train stations, schools, and parks. Candidates’ election posters are pasted on all of them. Because there are several hundred or more, pairs of two people are formed into ten teams to go around the city. However, it is still challenging, so candidates sometimes agree to divide the work of posting election posters and even to paste the posters of other candidates.
Elections are a “battle,” so there is always a win or lose outcome. Unlike soccer league matches, it is a harsh world where everything is decided in a single shot. It is truly a world of heaven and hell. I think this is the “thrill” that is not found in ordinary sports volunteers (for the candidates and parties involved, it is a matter of life and death, but I think we volunteers can enjoy it to the fullest). If a candidate wins, of course, we are happy, but even as a volunteer, we are pretty down if they lose. This is also one of the similarities with team sports volunteers such as the J-League.
Sports volunteering involves understanding the vision and goals of the organizing committee or sports event organizers and engaging in activities with high autonomy and creativity. On the other hand, election volunteering involves understanding the intentions of the candidates and engaging in activities with high autonomy and creativity, and there are many commonalities between the two. Therefore, the benefits and rewards gained from volunteering activities are also very similar.
In sports volunteering, such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, volunteers may have the opportunity to meet athletes they have only seen on television, depending on their roles. This is considered one of the attractions of volunteering. Similarly, in election volunteering, meeting politicians whom one has only seen on television can be a great attraction. (Many current members of parliament visit to support candidates during elections.)
Recently, more and more people have begun to question the way election campaigns require human resources, material resources, and financial resources. However, many candidates who have high aspirations cannot run for office successfully because of the shortage of people to support their election campaigns. If you see a candidate who you think could make the world a little better if elected, regardless of their party’s ideology or the locality in which you live, why not support them by volunteering for their campaign?