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Blog

From the Field

Canvassing Stories from the 2018 Volunteer Trail

Sometimes it’s fun. Sometimes it’s frustrating. But it’s always worth the effort. Here are some of my favorite canvassing stories. I’m sharing the good, the bad, the inspiring and the funny ones, so you know what to expect if you go out to canvass for an election in this installment of What to Expect When You’re Canvassing.

My friend Tracy remembers a warm moment she had while canvassing one otherwise chilly day. While she was talking to the mom in the house, a toddler came to the door to see what was going on, and gave her a big smile. “Pick me up and give me a hug!” squealed the little girl. Tracy said that was her favorite canvassing moment.

“Why should I vote for Democrats?”

Irene told me she only went canvassing once, but on that day she definitely won over at least one voter. “Why should I vote for Democrats?” he asked. “I like that Trump is keeping all the immigrants out of the country.” Irene responded that she was offended, because she was descended from immigrants. Then to her surprise, the man said, “Yes I’m from a family of immigrants too. Maybe I should re-think my position. After that they had a good conversation and Irene left feeling that she had won him over.

One time I was talking to a 69 year old woman. She wanted to know details about what my candidate would do for her on healthcare and education. I gave her as much information as I had, but she wanted to dive in deeper. She wondered why the campaigns didn’t give more data and statistics to help prospective voters decide. I told her most people didn’t want that amount of detail, but I could put her in touch with someone back at the campaign office who could give her more facts. She said, “No thanks, I think the campaigns need to give us more hard facts, but you’ve given me enough information. I’ll vote for your guy.”

“I’ll vote for your candidate anyway”

You will also meet many people who say sorry, they hate all politicians, and they hate the ugly TV ads from both sides, and they wish campaigns would just give positive reasons to vote for someone rather than slurring the other side, so they’re not voting. However, you will probably get just as many who give you the negative-ad speech and follow with, “But I’ll probably vote for your guy anyway, even though I’m disappointed,” and some who will say they’re voting for the Republicans. When they say they’re voting for the other side, you cut your losses, wish them a good day, and leave.

Meanwhile up in Binghamton, another friend, Jill, knocked on the door one day of an immigrant from Haiti who was a U.S. citizen. He told her he was initially scheduled to be in Haiti during the election, but he changed his plane ticket – costing him $258 – so that he could come back early to vote.

“I’ll vote for a Democrat for the first time in decades”

Binghamton was a place where I met several registered Republicans in their 80s and 90s who told me they have been Republicans all of their lives, but, as the nice old man in the plaid flannel shirt told me, “I am ashamed of my party now. I will vote for a Democrat for the first time in decades.”

Also in Binghamton, an older lady reluctantly opened her door for me and told me she had just returned from church. The walls of her front porch and foyer were adorned with crosses and religious pictures. I asked if she had a few minutes to talk about the election, and she nodded that it was OK. She listened to my pitch for why she should vote for a full two or three minutes. Then she shook her head and said she just wasn’t sure, but politely wished me a good afternoon. She closed the door and I heard her footsteps heading away. But she turned around suddenly and screamed loudly, “Can’t you people at least leave us alone on Sundays?” (Okay, but then why did you answer your door?)

Volunteer Resources

Learn more about how door-to-door Canvassing Can Sway Voter Decisions.

Read Amy’s first installment What To Expect When You’re Canvassing.

Learn more about Volunteering with Sister District!