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From the Field

What to Expect When You’re Canvassing

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.

The woman had tattoos up and down her arms. She was blowing round smoke signals from her cigarettes. Her home, #11, wasn’t on my canvassing list, and I made a mental note to stay away from that woman, who looked like my mental image of someone from the Trump base.

I rang the bell at house #10. I had a brief conversation with the occupant who told me, “Don’t worry, I’ll vote for your guy.” Then I moved on to house # 14.

While I waited at the door of #14, I heard the tattooed lady down the street ask her neighbor from #10, “Are they from the politicians? They better not be from the current representative. She wants to take away my chemo. I’ll vote for anyone else.” So the tattooed lady was probably not a Trumper at all. I felt awful for pre-judging her. We turned around and went over to talk her—Mary was her name.

Poor Mary has cancer and MS, and children at home, two of whom have disabilities. Our candidate had strong positions on protecting health care coverage for pre-existing conditions, which would help Mary pay for chemo treatments. Mary told us that she had never voted before, and all she wanted was someone who wouldn’t take away her chemo, so her children could have a mother for a few more years. We told her to vote for our candidate, who promised to fight to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.  We also suggested that Mary get her family members in the district to vote. There was enough time left to register to vote, and Mary said she and her sister would both register that week. This is why we canvass.

Canvassing is not always so rewarding. Sometimes, you may knock on three or four doors in a row and get no answer. Each time there’s no answer, you leave a flyer at a house to remind the occupants to vote for your candidate, and you hope they will read it. Then it’s on to the next house, which you reach just as the person you want to talk to is driving away. Maybe she will roll down her car window to ask what you’re doing. You’ll tell her you’re there to ask for her support for your candidate. And maybe she’ll tell you, “No, we don’t vote.” (Even though her name is on your list of registered voters.)

But just when you start thinking, “Why am I doing this, it’s pointless”, you knock on a door and an elderly woman will answer and say, “Thank you for doing this honey. I used to do what you’re doing, but I can’t anymore, so thank you for doing it for me and for all of us.” Adrenaline surge! Now I have my inspiration to keep canvassing for the rest of the day.