Opportunity knocks

Nick helps Colleen review the voter list while waiting for someone to answer the door.

The highlight of this past week was trying my hand–literally!–at something new, essential, and frankly a bit intimidating. On Sunday night, Jeremy and I packed Nick into the stroller for our first attempt to knock on strangers’ doors for the purpose of introducing myself and asking them to vote for me for School Committee, all in as little time as possible without interrupting their dinner. Easy, right?

Getting to this point took a good bit of preparation. First, I needed something to give folks, and I don’t yet have what the campaign world calls “palm cards” (basically, snazzy postcards) or “door hangers” to leave behind. Thanks to a few helpful editor-types, I managed to put together a one-pager that I printed at Staples over the weekend to fill this gap.

Second, I needed to know where to go. Thanks to the great folks at the Coalition for Social Justice, I got my hands on a set of voter lists that show me the names and addresses of every New Bedford voter who has voted in at least two of the last three municipal elections, which ensures that I don’t spend precious time ringing the doorbells of folks who won’t be at the polls on October 3 and/or November 7. These lists are set up so I can track where I knocked, if anyone was home, whether I think they’ll vote for me (1 is definitely, 5 is forget it), whether they want a lawn sign, or if they don’t speak English.

The surprising thing about these lists is how few people are on them. Would you believe that in a city of about 38,000 households (according to the 2010 census), just 7,800 households are on that list? Instead of literally going door-to-door, my canvassing effort will involve lots more skipping around than anticipated.

So last night, we put two CSJ-generated voter lists for our neighborhood on one clipboard and a nomination form on another, grabbed a stack of flyers, donned our buttons, filled some water bottles, buckled Nick in with a toy and a book, and set off down the street. I rang the first doorbell, and….nothing. Since this house was in our immediate neighborhood, we decided we’d come back later. Onto the house next door, and…nothing. The same thing happened at the next nine houses. Oof! This was a Sunday at about 5pm, a day and time recommended by more than a few people (plus the internet), but it was also the first truly gorgeous day in a while.

We finally had a response at door number 10, and while the occupants quickly agreed to sign my nomination papers, I didn’t really get the chance to do my spiel. Luckily, three voters were sitting on the porch of the next house, representing two houses on the block. They were happy to chat, quickly asking what my qualifications were, and when it seemed those passed muster, sharing lots of observations and insights for more than a few minutes. One had heard my name already through a neighbor, and another said I could put her down as a volunteer. Awesome!

I was riding pretty high after this, but the same didn’t go for Nick, whose mood began a slow and steady decline as we approached bedtime. We managed one more response–one that yielded a “1” and a spot for a lawn sign–before Nick reached his breaking point.

All told, we lasted just over an hour, knocked on 20 doors, gathered 5 signatures on my nomination papers, and came away with one lawn sign spot and one volunteer. The folks at CSJ suggested a rate of 25 doors/hour is about average, so while we were a bit behind that, I’d say it was a decent result for our first attempt.

Next time, one thing we’ll do differently include pre-writing notes on the flyers we’ll leave behind (“sorry we missed you!”), since scrawling those notes–and then spending a while trying to find a place to stick the flyers, since putting them in mailboxes is prohibited–took up a bit of time. We may also try out a weeknight this week, and/or a morning shift over the coming weekend. One thing is for sure: though the low level of voter participation is disheartening, reaching even 7,800 households will take approximately 312 hours, and that’s more than enough for me!

This week’s stats:

Time spent: 6 hours (prepping my flyer/talking points, learning the ropes from Dan & Marlene of CSJ, and door-knocking)

Amount spent: $25 (printing flyers at Staples)

Amount raised: $195 (I’m up to a total of $1,742)

Events attended: 1 (opening of art exhibit at Haskell Public Gardens, where I even told a story!)

New people I’ve met: 4 (while canvassing!)

One thought on “Opportunity knocks

  1. Although I am only a summer resident and a registered voter in Florida, I wish you much luck. NB schools need much help and a smart, committed woman like you on the board will add a lot t to that effort. Let me know if I can help while I’m here this summer.

    Like

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