Despite having gone canvassing this past Monday, I was not sure what to expect the second time. This was partly because my canvassing partner, Gabrielle, and I would be going to a different area, partly because we would be out for longer, and finally because the weather would be much nicer. For those of you who have read fellow Ole Rosemary Byrne’s blog post, Warning: Treachery on the Canvassing Trail, I was the girl who fell and cut her hand. Needless to say, I was curious about how today’s canvassing would go.
We arrived at the organizing hub, a nearby school, where we were given a clipboard with a list of homes to visit. After filling up on the donuts and coffee set out for the volunteers, a group of seven of us piled into a van and headed out. It took almost an hour for Gabrielle and me to arrive at our neighborhood, or “turf,” since each pair had to be dropped off at different areas. It soon became apparent that the canvassing would go slowly. The neighborhood we were assigned was partially out in the country allowing the spaces between houses to be large. The long winding driveways led back to the houses themselves which were hidden behind tall trees. Getting up the sloping driveways was challenging. This morning it had snowed and although the sun had caused most it to melt by midday, the trees shaded the driveways just enough that a fair amount of snow was still piled on them. Meanwhile, puddles covered the street making wet shoes, and by the end of the day wet socks, inevitable.
Although trekking up and down the driveways and streets was slightly treacherous, the weather was in the 30s and sunny, making it an unexpectedly beautiful day to canvass. While at most of the houses our knocks weren’t answered, the hours of walking were worth it for the opportunity to talk to the few people who do answer their doors. The purpose of the day’s canvassing was merely to visit voters, see if they had decided who they would be supporting in the upcoming primary, and offer an information sheet to them. If someone answered the door, the typical answer was that they were undecided. Gabrielle and I were lucky in that someone answered the door at the very first house we stopped at and that he was leaning towards our candidate. This house, though, was followed by a string of “no answers.” However, this did not mean that Gabrielle and I were bored. On the contrary, we enjoyed the opportunity to see a different view of New Hampshire that wasn’t the hotel or the campaign office. Of course, the Kansas in me also made the most of the long stretches between houses by singing, and dancing, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” while Gabrielle trailed behind me.
Almost every voter we encountered was incredibly friendly. Most were simply generous in giving us their time and being willing to talk to us. There were also the few who genuinely brightened Gabrielle and I’s day. This included one woman who, upon hearing who we were canvassing for, was nearly beside herself with excitement and a man who graciously found it funny when I got two addresses mixed up and asked for the wrong person. Occasionally there is a house that is not quite as friendly. Unfortunately, sexism is still prevalent in today’s society, even in a nice neighborhood in New Hampshire and today was no exception. At one home Gabrielle and I were forced to leave the door unknocked due to rude comments being shouted out a window. However, this happens extremely rarely and by and large the houses were all exceptionally welcoming.
After over four hours and an estimated 10 miles walked, Gabrielle and I had finally finished our turf. Exhausted, we arrived back at headquarters where, naturally, we found that the elevator was out of service and that we would have to take the stairs. So, with our feet sore and blistering, we hobbled up the stairs where we recorded the data gathered from the day. By the time we got back to the hotel we were so tired that we promptly fell onto our beds, but not before ordering Chinese take-out!
-- 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.