My childhood pastor used to say the best way to convey an idea was to wrap it up in a person. Canvassing for a political candidate is similar, providing interaction and a human face to a process that most Americans regard with cynicism or ignore. That human touch may be even more crucial in local elections, which don’t draw the kind of news coverage that state and national elections do (and many municipalities no longer have a robust local newspaper). Can you name your local government officials? Do you know their political affiliations and platform? Would you recognize any of them if you ran into them in the grocery store?
This is just one reason for canvassing--educating the voters (yourself included). Canvassing also educates the candidates: According to the BBC, “Canvassing is still the best way of getting a feel for what people are thinking and talking about in a constituency so that you can fine tune your message."
Voter turnout is important in all elections but your vote can have a larger effect in local elections. For example, in the recent primary election in Horsham, Republican turnout was up 40% compared with the 2013 primary. Democratic turnout was up nearly 110% and the lone Democratic candidate for school board, Jennifer Wilson, garnered the most votes of all of the six candidates. But the work isn’t done: she and other Democratic candidates for local offices need voter support in the November election.
An experiment in Britain found that phone calls and post cards weren’t as likely to motivate people to vote as in-person visits, which boosted voter turnout 20%. The conversation is key: According to the researchers, “Canvassing seems to work best when voters who don’t care much about politics engage in a genuine conversation about why voting is important.” If you volunteer to canvass, you’ll be given a script. But to paraphrase Capt. Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean, the script is more of a guideline for volunteers. In addition to asking voters the suggested questions and listening to their answers, tell them why you volunteered and why electing this candidate and voting are important to you. As Organizing for America says, “Your personal story will always be the most effective way of engaging with voters.”
Lastly, canvassing is a good way to get in your 10,000 daily steps!
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- RSVP here for the Horsham Democratic Committee Day of Action, and learn how to canvass for the Democratic Candidates in the 2017 Election
- Sign up to volunteer with the Horsham Democratic Committee. A wide variety of volunteer roles are available, including canvassing, phone banking, event coordination, and more!