Meet a FLIPster: Laura Ballance

You’ve heard us say that FLIPsters are rock stars – our all-volunteer organization depends on lots of good people lending a hand, making a financial contribution, and participating in our democracy. Today’s featured FLIPster is a literal rock star, though!

Laura is the bassist for indie rock band Superchunk. (If you haven’t already, listen to “What a Time to Be Alive,” Superchunk’s musical response to the 2016 election and all that has happened since.) She also runs Durham’s Merge Records, home to artists like Arcade Fire and She & Him.

Laura still finds time for activism, volunteering with multiple organizations. She had never canvassed before discovering FLIP NC. She’s knocked doors with us in Wake County on three occasions. 

Here, a Q&A with Laura. And join her at an upcoming weekend canvass in flippable Wake County! We’re knocking doors eight more times before the election!

How did you find out about FLIP NC? 

I heard about FLIP NC through my friend and fellow activist Sabine Schoenbach. Our kids went to school with Pat Bayer’s son. [Pat is a member of our leadership team.]

What has surprised you most about canvassing? 

It's not nearly as hard as I expected. I was really scared to do it because I really don't like it too much if people ring my doorbell, and I was not excited to be one of those people. I have been surprised at how many people are happy to talk and have someone to answer their questions about upcoming elections. I have also been surprised that I have gotten less and less nervous about doing it. 

Laura (left) with FLIP NC co-founder Briana Brough

Laura (left) with FLIP NC co-founder Briana Brough

Do you like to recruit a friend or relative to sign up to canvass with you or do you prefer to be paired with a stranger to add to the fun? 

I can go either way on that. My first time I was very happy to be paired with veteran canvasser, Mark Hellman. Now that I feel like I have some idea of what I am doing and what to say when people open their door to us, I like to invite other people to come along and offer to partner up with them. It seems like a good way to recruit.

Have a funny story or touching moment to share?

Something I have noticed going door to door: Whenever I meet a naturalized citizen, they take voting much more seriously than the average native U.S. citizen. They regard voting every chance they get as a duty and honor. If only all Americans looked at the right to vote with such high regard – then our democracy would perhaps be in a safer place.

What's your top canvassing tip? 

Don't be afraid. Just smile and dive in. You don't have to be perfect.

What is really motivating you to get involved? Obviously, you want to FLIP NC, but tell us a bit about the "why."

Since Republicans have gained control of the NC legislature, they have been eroding democracy in our state at an alarming rate. Nationwide, I feel like the Republican party has somehow become the party of fascism. It sounds extreme, but when I look at the lengths they are willing to go to in order to retain power I have to say this is the case. Our democracy is a delicate thing, and, right now, it is very much in danger.

How are you feeling about the 2018 election?

A group photo from a spring 2018 canvass. Laura is on the front row, second from the left.

A group photo from a spring 2018 canvass. Laura is on the front row, second from the left.

I feel hopeful. I think enough people are motivated right now that perhaps we can get enough of the vote out to overcome the gerrymandering that we have to contend with. I hope. 

Have you always been politically activated?

I have been politically activated for a while, and I am learning more and more as I go. The first time I voted was in 1990. George Bush was president, and North Carolina was represented in the U.S. Senate by Jesse Helms, a most repugnant racist, homophobe, and general turd. It was a tough time for those of us with any political awareness in North Carolina. Superchunk had played a concert for an organization called Vanish (Voters Against North Carolina Incumbent Senator Helms) to try to help raise awareness among the rockers that they needed to get out and vote and also raise money for Harvey Gantt's campaign. So I was really hopeful and excited to go vote against Helms myself. Once I got to the polls, though, I realized I was woefully unprepared. There were all these other races on the ballot that I did not know anything about, and I wound up voting for a lot of candidates based on their party. And if I had to choose between two Democrats (or if is was a non-partisan race, like judge or soil and water supervisor), I would vote for the woman. Not the best method. I felt pretty stupid. I had not realized that there were voter guides I could use as resources to prepare myself. It was actually a number of years before I found the Durham People's Alliance, who send written interviews to all the candidates and then make their recommendations based on their responses. I trust them and know that their politics and mine are the same. My advice to all voters: Either do a lot of research before you go or find an organization that you trust to help you figure out who to vote for in the down-ballot races. All of them are really important! 

Other than politics, what’s a passion of yours? 

My daughter is my motivation for just about everything I do at this point. I am wildly passionate about equality for all people, protecting the environment and our planet, and education. I do my best to walk the walk and talk the talk. You need to do both to make change and also spread the word.

What would you say to someone who is feeling totally dejected by our current state of politics? And how do you stay in the fight? 

I personally feel very dejected about the current state of politics, but I have realized the best thing I can do for myself and my own sanity is to get out and do something to help change the situation. The only thing that makes me feel better is action. Sitting around and complaining about how bad it is does not make change. I talk to anyone and everyone about what is going on and how they need to get out and vote. Anyone who does not vote loses the right to complain about the outcome, in my book. I volunteer with multiple organizations trying to get out the vote, and it makes me feel more hopeful than if I were isolated and just hoping for the best.