Volunteers canvass for Democratic congressional candidate Harley Rouda in Costa Mesa, CA, in 2018.
A 2012 study found that only 12 percent of Americans have participated in a political campaign. The percentage of Americans with an active belief in the supernatural power of witches is double this number. So what’s holding people back? My guess is, in part, a fear of doing something new — especially something that involves talking to strangers.
The reality is that canvassing — which just means going door to door to help get out the vote for a political candidate or issue you believe in — is vitally important and is much less scary than people think. It’s about participating: in our communities, in our national dialogue, and in our democracy. It’s about holding people accountable and making sure as many voices can be heard as possible. It’s also actually pretty easy with a bit of preparation.
Want to become a confident canvasser? Read below for my seven quick tips — then get out there!
1. Sign up through an organization that matches canvassers to campaigns.
There are several easy ways to sign up to canvass and all kinds of things you can canvass for. The first is simple: go to the website of your candidate of choice and sign up to volunteer. Another option is an organization like SwingLeft, which is set up to match you with nearby left-leaning campaigns that need volunteers. That’s what I did last Election Day, and it felt good to know I was pitching in where somebody really needed my help. (For a nonpartisan option, check out VolunteerMatch.)
Pro tip: Calling or emailing a city- or district-level political party is a great place to learn about hyperlocal campaigns or candidates. I absolutely loved canvassing for a school-board candidate in my hometown one year. I got to meet my neighbors, spend some time outside, and influence the direction of the schools my nieces attend.
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