This Saturday I had the opportunity to knock doors with a first-time canvasser. As part of my role as a fellow for the Hillary campaign I arrived early to the school in order to help set-up and to sign-in volunteers. The day was split into multiple canvassing shifts in order to simplify the process of organizing volunteers. When it came time for the second shift I was paired with a woman who had never canvassed before. It was a good opportunity for both of us, she needed to be trained, and because she had a car I would be able to reach some houses that were not within walking distance of the school. In addition, the turf we were assigned included her neighborhood, giving the canvass a more personal feel.
It soon became apparent that this would be a slightly different canvass than the other ones I had completed. Because of the woman’s knowledge of the neighborhood she was able to tell whether or not people were home and knew many voters on a first-name-basis. At one house the woman knew the (undecided) voter well as they had worked on a local election together. We were able to have a better discussion than usual because the woman I was canvassing with was able to talk about issues that she knew the woman would be specifically interested in. Another reason it was helpful to have someone from the neighborhood to canvass with was that the woman could plan out the route that would be the most efficient, making the shift much quicker than usual.
It was a cold day to canvass for multiple hours, in the twenties and windy, so we headed back to the school after finishing one packet. It was an interesting experience. Canvassing is often praised as a way for voters to hear about candidates from their friends, colleagues, and neighbors and yesterday I got to experience that firsthand. However, it made me realize how quickly I have adjusted to working on a campaign. After just two weeks I feel comfortable talking to complete strangers about their political views and am able to train new canvassers, enabling the volunteer force to grow and more turf to be covered.
-- Genevieve Akins is a St. Olaf sophomore from Topeka, KS., majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential election.