#KATEKANVASS HINTS

  1. I'll start with the approach. Look at the house. Get a sense of the people who live there. Are their children's toys? Maybe you can talk about education. Think about where the person lives, the neighborhood. Think about areas where you can find common ground with the voter.

  1. In assessing the house, look for a conversation piece. Are there interesting plantings and flowers? Maybe a tree or a lawn sculpture? Look for something that you can mention to the voter. It's best if you are genuine about something that you are complimenting. If you can, it gets the conversation off to a friendly, positive start.

  1. Look for a car in the driveway. Hybrid? Luxury? Look at bumper stickers. Again, you are looking for common ground to start the conversation.

  1. Which door? Go for the door that looks most used, usually the one nearest the driveway. Look at the walkway; if it's full of moss and weeds with overhanging branches, then look for another door.

  1. While it’s USUALLY the door that looks most used, if you have to go around the back yard, maybe stick with the front door. This can be situational - a 63 year old silver haired woman can approach a back door where a six foot 20 something might want to stick closer to the street. If there is mailbox near a door then someone uses it sometime. Also, if the "most used" door is at basement level go to a door where you can have a comfortable conversation.

  1. You've now selected the door for your knock or ring. The goal is to TALK with voters. Get as close to the voter as is appropriate. If there is a breezeway and there is a doorbell inside the breezeway, go to the doorbell. If it looks like a porch, minimal furnishings proceed. If it looks furnished and like living space, stay on the steps.

  1. Look for a doorbell. Ring the bell. And then LISTEN. If you do not hear the bell, then there is a good chance that the bell does not work. Now what?

  1. So you have just rung the bell or knocked at the door. The next thing is to look at your walk sheet or MiniVAN. Who is on your list? What are their names, ages, party registration? Has the campaign provided information? Is this a turnout target or a persuasion target? Does it look like a married couple based on name, ages, etc.? Married couples with different last names tend to be more progressive. Same sex couple? Maybe your candidate has lobbied for LGBT rights.

  1. Sometimes there is either no doorbell or what appears to be a non-functional doorbell. Remember the goal is to TALK TO THE VOTER. Use a door knocker if there is one. Open a screen door to knock if needed. Look for a hollow door panel. Knock on a window. Knock hard enough for the voter to hear you.

  1. Now you are waiting at the door and have familiarized yourself with the voter. Make an assessment as to how likely it is that a voter will answer. Days of newspapers, locked up tight, no cars in the driveway. Quite likely no one is home. Doors and windows open, car in the driveway. Put in that extra time to try to TALK TO THE VOTER.

  1. You are at the door and there is no answer. That's OK. Just leave a piece of literature. First write a note. "Sorry I missed you," is the standard. "Vote Tuesday" or "Vote Tomorrow" are great during GOTV. “Thank you” is brief and you can still hand it to a voter if someone arrives while you are waiting. Now find a secure place to leave the lit, preferably providing some protection from the elements. Do not leave it in a mailbox or touching a mailbox. Leave it at eye level. You don't want the voter to have to bend over. My preference is to open a screen door slightly and leave it in the door. Try to be sure that the lit is visible from the street, especially if the person is likely to enter through the garage or not use the door where you are leaving information.

  1. On the topic of where to leave the lit: door handles, door frames, even shutters turn out to be good places to leave lit. If you are going to an apartment complex, scotch tape can be helpful. Be very cautious with tape. I limit the use of tape to glass surfaces.

  1. We're finally at the point where someone opens the door. Assess the situation. Is it likely your target voter? Is the person welcoming or looking like they are very busy? If the person looks like your target voter, I usually begin by saying something like, "Good morning. My name is Kate and I'm a volunteer here in Boston for Mary Smith's campaign for state rep. Might you be Jim Jones?" You want to introduce yourself and let the voter know why you are at their door. It's the courteous thing to do. And then you want to ascertain that you are talking to the right person.

  1. If the person indicates that he or she is not the person you named, then ask about any other names on your list for that household. If you are told that none of the targeted voters is at home, then ask the person at the door if he or she is a registered voter at that address. If you are talking to a registered voter and the person is not on your list, I generally talk to them. There are exceptions of course. If they are unceptive or identify themselves as a Republican I don't bother.

  1. So now you are finally talking to a voter, either the targeted voter or another voter you think worthwhile to spend time with. You have already introduced yourself. At this point you might want to CONNECT with the voter. "What a beautiful dog!" or "I noticed that gorgeous beech tree." or "I saw the bumper sticker for West Point. Do you have a child there?"

  1. Now you want to launch into the actual script. Some campaigns want you to stick with the actual script as closely as possible. Others will tell you to use the talking points but encourage you to use your own words. If I have latitude, after the introduction and the connection I say, "We're out here, enjoying this gorgeous day (or other filler), talking to voters, seeing if you have had a chance to make a decision and asking for your vote." The filler depends on the situation. I use "getting a little wet", "enjoying the foliage" and a favorite of mine, "getting out of breath on this driveway" or stairs, etc.

  1. Anyone of a number of things can happen at this point. Let's start with the simplest. The person says, "Why yes, I've made a decision. I'm voting for the opponent." At this point you say, "Thank you for letting me know and thank you for your time." Do not argue with them. Do not try to figure out why they have made that decision. Just move on to the next door. Do not say, "Thank you for being honest." You expect honesty and to imply that you are not expecting honesty is unneeded.

  1. The person says, "I'm with you. I'll be voting for your candidate." At this point you say, "Thank you! That's wonderful. Would you like to volunteer for the campaign?"

  1. I've told you what to do if the response is yes (volunteer ask) or no (say thank you and leave). But if the response is, "I haven't made a decision." Or if the person pauses and doesn't say anything, this is your cue to launch into talking points and/or your personal story. Follow the direction the campaign has given you. Sometimes the talking points are the result of polling and the campaigns wants you to focus on those. Sometimes the campaign wants you to share your personal reasons for supporting the candidate. There are appropriate reasons for a campaign to direct you one way or the other. Try to make your pitch as conversational as possible. But, it's OK to just read the talking points from the script until you get used to it. Don't let fear of not being perfect keep you from doing the best you can to get votes for your candidate.

  1. After you have made your pitch to the voter to support your cause or candidate, pause briefly. If the voter hasn't responded then you say, "Are there any issues that you'll be looking at as you make your decision about this race?" You want to ask a question that will get the voter talking. Generally it is not a good idea to ask "Do you have any questions?"

  1. If the voter is a supporter or undecided invite the voter to an upcoming event. A local coffee party, a meet and greet, a rally. More often than not the voter will beg off, mentioning a conflict. That's your opening to say, "What's the best e-mail address for us to use to keep you informed of future events here in the area?" Always try to get an email address.

  1. Getting an email address is very important, especially in local races. The tone and language are very important. Don't ask apologetically, "Would you mind giving me your email address?" Ask with confidence, "What's the best email address for us to use to keep you informed about what's happening in the campaign?" Assume a yes. You just want to know which is the best email address.

  1. Many campaigns use pledge cards for supporters. The goal is that you ask a voter to sign a card stating the person's intention to vote for that candidate. It commits the voter, not only to the candidate, but to actually voting. Typically this post card, signed by the voter, is mailed to the voter at the appropriate time, a few days before the actual election. So if the person has just said that he or she will be voting for your candidate, you might say something like, "That's great! Could you please sign this card. It say what you just told me; you'll be voting for Chris on Tuesday?"

  1. People are by nature helpful. Sometimes campaigns give points for pledge cards. I explain to people that "It makes the nice young people back at the campaign HQ so happy. I think there's a contest or something." If I have young person with me, or a new person, I gesture towards them and say something like, "It would be great if you sign the card. Chris gets points for every card that we get. It's her first time." If the campaign doesn't have a contest, you can create a competition with your canvass partner or the others who are with you

  1. Get Out The Vote: GOTV - Once you identify a supporter your job is to get them to vote. One part of this is getting the voter to make a plan to vote. Voting is like exercising. Most people see it a good thing. A great number of people don't really make a plan to exercise. They have a vague idea that they will do it, but unless the person makes a specific plan, like going to the gym on the lunch hour, suddenly it's the end of the day and nothing has been done. Voting is similar. Unless the voter makes a plan, "We will vote in the morning, before we go to work," then voting doesn't happen.

  1. It's GOTV. You're trying to make sure the voter has a plan. Try to get them to commit to a time. The conversation goes something like this. "Do you know when you are a voting? Can you go early in the day? Before work? We really encourage voting before work, because you never know what's going to happen. Life gets in the way. If you vote early you won't have to think about it the rest of the day." If they have free time in the morning say something like, "Why don't you vote at 10:00 am? That's a good time. The people going to work have already voted and it's before the lunch hour." Once they have committed to a time, say something like. "Do you have a smart phone? Can you put it in right now? That way you won't forget."

  1. Where do you vote is easy. Ideally you have the information on your walk sheet or in mini-van. It's best to ask "Do you know where you vote?" Most people respond with the location, "The library," or "The church down the street." Having the voter say it reinforces it. You also learn the local terminology. Sometimes your polling list might give a more obscure name, "The Kathleen M. Donaghue Civic Meeting Center." But the voters all call it "The Civic Center." Having the voter say the name lets you know that they really do know where they vote.

  1. Now, you want to ask the voter how he or she is going to get to the polls. You want to ask this in a natural way, which can be difficult in an area where everyone drives. For an older person or in an urban area you can say, "The campaign is offering rides to the polls. Will you be driving or will you be going with someone else?" If you know the voter lives near the polls, you can make a comment like, "You live so close, you can walk if it's a nice day."

  1. Ride to the polls. You're at the door. It's election day or during early voting. The voter isn't sure how he or she is getting to the polls. "I can give you a ride right now." You want to get the voter to go with you NOW. Things can go wrong with rides to the polls programs. If you can get the voter to get into your car and take them to vote, do it. If the voter says, they can't do it right then and there but will soon. Call the rides to the polls number yourslef, preferably a local number and arrange for the ride time right then and there. Do not ask the voter to call for a ride after you leave. It increases the chances that it won't happen. If possible, don't even leave a message. If you have to leave a message, then you should be the backup. "You can vote at 2 pm? That’s great. Either I or someone else will drive you. Just be ready to 2:00 pm." Maybe the rides to the polls person gets back to you. Great. You are all set. Maybe they don't. You pick the person up at 2 pm and drive them to vote. (It seldom happens but it is so satisfying to put someone in your car at 7:30 pm on election day and get them to vote.)

  1. In your interactions with the voter, keep in mind that a person is more likely to vote if everyone's doing it. Tell people that turnout will be high. Mention that you've been talking to people in the neighborhood and everyone is doing it. All your neighbors are voting.

  1. “Thank you for being a good voter," is a great way to close a conversation with a supporter. It is more effective to talk about voting as part of a person's identity than about voting as an action. "We're talking to good voters today," reinforces voting as part of someone's identity. "Can we count on you to vote on Tuesday?" can elicit a response of, "I'm just too busy." If the question is, "Can we count on you to be a voter?" then it is harder for the person to say no.

  1. This is a special circumstance hint. When you are talking to an undecided voter and learn that the spouse is with the candidate you are promoting. Just say, "It's clear she is a smart woman. She married you. Listen to her." It works the other way around, too.

  1. If you see a newspaper on the walkway bring it to the door. When the voter answers, hand the person the paper and you can open with, "Hi, my name is Kate, a volunteer from the x campaign. We're out here enjoying this beautiful day, bringing people their newspapers and asking for your vote." And then I laugh. And the voter laughs! It gets the conversation off to a good start.

  1. Kids are always fun. When young kids are at the door with their parents it's a great way to use to different strategies for getting people to vote. The first is modeling behavior for children. I explain to parents that one of the best predictors of who will vote as an adult is if the child went with the parents to vote when they were young.

  1. With very young children I ask them how old they are. When it's three year old, I'll say something like, "When will you be two again?" This tends to cause confusion but generally gets the parents laughing.

  1. When there are kids at the door, I sometimes explain to both the children and the parents the importance of making an election day plan. I might mention the analogy that it's like exercise. You need to have a plan and that a general intention of more exercise doesn't make it happen. I involve the kids in the conversation. I talk the parent through the plan and say maybe you can vote after school when you are picking up the kids. Then I say to the kids, help mom and dad make a plan. First vote then ICE CREAM! Do you have a family calendar? VOTE THEN ICE CREAM! Pictured below is a young girl writing the election day plan on the family calendar on the refrigerator.

  1. Back to trying to talk to the target voter. So your walk list shows that you have a married couple, man and woman at the same address. Let's say the first names are Mary and Jack. If the man answer the door you can say questioningly Jack Smith? When he agrees that is who he is, then I say, "You look more like a Jack than a Mary," Sometimes I say. "I'm smart that way!" It usually gets a laugh.

  1. You're at the door and you have one voter on your list, a woman. A man answers the door. It's clearly not your targeted voter. Don't launch into your pitch and then ask for the right person. Give a brief introduction and ask for the voter, "Good evening. My name's Kate. Is Mary Smith available?" If the response is, "No. She's not here.," then you might as well see if it is worth talking to the person who answered the door. Your next question is, "What about you? Are you a voter here in Boston?" If the person is a voter, then make your pitch. If the person is a voter in another community in the district, make your pitch. If not voters and it's appropriate, have the person register to vote.

  1. Absentee Ballots: Ideally, after you ask someone for their vote, at some point you ask something like, "Will you be here in town on November 8th?" If the answer is no, ask the voter if he or she would like an absentee ballot application. If you don't have any forms with you, mark the information and get it to the campaign HQ. Try to get the person to fill it out. Many people are uncomfortable with filling out what looks like a long form to them with someone standing there waiting. I have had great success saying something like, "I'll be here in the neighborhood for the 30 minutes or so. Why don't you fill it out, leave it in the door and I'll come pack and pick it up and won't need to bother you." This strategy works for voter registration forms as well.

  1. In this scenario there are two folks on your list. Both the same gender and one is 25 and the other 50. So you have Jane age 50 and Courtney age 25. Always guess the younger person's name. "Courtney?" you say questioningly. "No, I'm Jane," might be the response. "I wasn't sure. You look closer to age 25 than age 50." Have some fun while you are doing good!

  1. How to dress when canvassing. Keep it casual if possible. If you are too dressed up, people think you are selling something or representing a religious group. If you have to be dressed up, wear political paraphernalia. Wear comfortable shoes. If you are canvassing in your own community, wear a local T-Shirt or sweatshirt if you have one.

  1. Have fun. Look for interesting things along your route. Smell the flowers. Notice a doorknob, a door handle, a door knocker. Look at the sky. Canvassing is going for a walk and if you're lucky you get to talk to a voter!

  1. Canvassing with a candidate is a special opportunity. You want to maximize the candidate's time and have him or her talk to as many voters as possible. It could be a candidate for School Committee or a candidate for statewide office. If there is ONE volunteer/staffer and the candidate, then they should stay fairly near each other. If you're looking at the two next houses, then the candidate goes where it is more likely that you find someone at home. The other person goes to the one where it looks like no one is there. If the candidate gets a voter at the door, the staffer needs to make sure that the candidate keeps moving. If the staffer gets someone home, it's important to stress that the candidate is right in the neighborhood. If possible the candidate should come over to the door where there is a voter. The greeting might go something like, "My name is Kate and I'm a volunteer with Mary Smith's campaign. Mary and I are out here together talking to voters." And they you point in the general direction of the candidate. If the candidate is in hollering distance, you call over to them. If the candidate gets someone at home, the staffer needs to join the candidate to take notes and ensure that the candidate keeps moving.

  1. When canvassing with the candidate If you have the luxury of multiple canvassers, then you have more options. The candidate can maintain visual contact with two canvassers and they knock on doors. If someone finds a voter then the candidate hustles over to that door. You can also do the leapfrog technique. The candidate is at a door with a staffer. Ready to go at the next door is the other staffer. As soon as the door is closed where the candidate is, the other person knocks on the door. If you get a person home the candidate and the voter reach the door at about the same time. Meanwhile, the first staffer is heading over to the next house. These practices work better in theory than in reality, but they are something to strive for. In low density areas there is always the drive time approach. The candidate stays in the car doing other "candidate stuff" while one staffer knocks and the candidate jumps out only when the door opens. We all know how important "candidate stuff" is!

  1. Ending the conversation. I've been talking about candidate canvassing where ending the conversation fairly quickly can be a priority in terms of optimizing the candidate's time. Volunteers and staffers need to optimize your time as well. When ending the conversation it's best to frame it as being respectful of the voter's time. "I'm sure you have other things to do. I appreciate your time today. Thank you for being a voter." Most of the time that ends the conversation. If the voter still wants to talk, sometimes it's necessary to say something like, "I have 15 more houses today and need to keep going. Thank you for your time." Especially when you are with a candidate the staffer/volunteer can remind the candidate of an appointment coming up and they need to be moving on. It's best that the candidate not come across as cutting off the voter. Always work to keep the conversation brief. The more voters you talk to the more effective your canvassing will be. In general, no conversation should go more than two or three minutes. Don't argue with voters and if someone isn't supporting your candidate don't spend time asking why.

  1. Walking the route. In general, in my neck of the woods, doing odd and even doesn't really work. Generally there is not enough density to do justify doing one side and then coming back and doing the other. Mostly I crisscross as I go down the street. Try to look for loops where you end up at the same place where you started. Especially if you are with a group, I seldom walk to one end and then work my way back to the car. There's always the chance that if I canvass away from the car that when I get to the end that someone will pick me and take me back to my car. When I canvass with a partner I'm a big believer in doing a street "together" - I drop my partner at one end of the street and then I drive to the other end. We canvass towards each other and meet in the middle and walk back to my car together. In general I walk a lot and plan my route to minimize backtracking. There are the occasional walk routes consisting of primarily busy streets with no parking. In those cases I sometimes ask my husband's help. Then we'll park my car at one end of a busy street and he'll drop me at the other end and then go home.

  1. So far we've primarily focused on canvassing itself. I'm transitioning into canvass logistics. There may be two people in separate cars who need to connect, for example when a person is finishing up and wants to give the clipboard and materials to the other. Whenever possible, maximize your canvass time. For example don't say, "Let's meet at the corner of Elm and Maple in ten minutes." It's better to say, "I'm at 49 Maple and walking towards the higher numbers. Drive up Maple and give me your completed walk packet." Once again, I am feeling like Captain Obvious. But I have had situations where I say, "Did something go wrong? You were out for hours and did x doors." The response might be, "I lost 20 minutes when Joe met me to give me his canvass packet."

  1. Birthday Canvass. How to schedule a birthday canvass. First it helps if you have a late October birthday.

  1. it's a big presidential year, then have your birthday canvass in NH. Start with "breakfast" at the HQ and end with drinks/dinner at a local place. (50th, 58th birthdays).
  2. If all the action is in Mass, then have several birthday canvasses. Start in your own community and move around. Always end at Redbones in Somerville. It helps to guilt statewide office holders you have helped over the years to join you. (60th)
  3. If your birthday is on Wednesday, then have a birthday canvass for a week. Build drinks and dinner events in MA and leverage existing events with candidates in NH. Sometimes you can have two birthday canvasses in the same day. (62nd)

  1. Hints on running a canvass with just a few volunteers. Generally the more local we are, the more efficient we are. For many reasons canvasses are not always launched from an HQ or formal staging area. Maybe there are five of you meeting at a coffee shop or someone's porch. With just a few volunteers, it's usually best not to have someone stay at the launch area. The time is better spent in voter contact. When a volunteer is done, they can connect with the lead and maybe help them finish up or join up with another volunteer. Avoid setting an end time if it's not needed. You don't want volunteers coming back at 3:00 pm even if they are not finished, when they are willing to do more. It's not always practical to avoid specific end time. Sometimes ending at a local restaurant or pub works well. I try to develop a sense of a group goal and when one person is done he or she joins someone else until everyone is done. It's one of those strategies that doesn't always quite work (this one is on a tight schedule; that one didn't see the text). But it can be a huge morale booster when someone got behind schedule and two folks show up now instead of twelve more houses, you have three people doing four apiece.

  1. When launching a canvass remember the "Thirty Minute Rule." Be on your way no more than 30 minutes from your meeting time. Social time is important, but do that after the work is done. It's 30 minutes from the START TIME, even if people are late. If I have a new person, I try to do the basics of training in advance of the launch time. Volunteers want their time used effectively.

  1. Drive through canvass launch: Optimizing your time and that of others is key. If you are a regular volunteer or have regular volunteers, think about a drive by launch. The volunteer drives up, gets handed the walk packet through the car window and you're off. Not good for building community and training. But for consistent volunteers, it can really save time. This is especially helpful if parking is at a premium. This is one of those ideas that works better in theory than in reality, but it can save real time.