Not all superheros wear capes. Some wear comfortable shoes and save our democracy one door knock at a time. Here’s why you should give it a try: canvassing is the most effective way to identify support, persuade undecideds, and increase voter turnout. We understand that it’s also intimidating for many volunteers. Turn PA Blue wants to give you the information you need to master the art of the door knock. We promise, these face-to-face conversations with your fellow citizens will be meaningful, rewarding, and fun. Canvasses for state races are especially exciting because the candidates are often there to canvass with us and to talk about why they are running for office. This is democracy up close and personal! You can see yourself making a difference!
- The first step is easy–just sign up through the applicable TPAB Action Network Link for the specific canvass you wish to attend or you can sign up here to be notified about upcoming canvassess. The campaign or canvass coordinator will reach out to confirm and to provide any additional information.
- The More the Merrier! Enlist friends, family, members of your group, neighbors, even kids in some case. Set up a carpool.
- Dress the Part: wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are appropriate for the weather.
- Supplies: Please bring a bottle of water and a snack (granola bar, apple, trail mix, etc.) to help keep you going while canvassing.
- If possible, please try and bring bring a fully charged smartphone, as well as some back up chargers in case the campaign will want you to use Mini-Van, a simple and useful campaign tool that provides the walk list, voter info, and script right on your phone. Please install the Minivan app available for both IOS and Android on your phone. This is a huge time saver for campaigns who can automatically find the results post-canvass without entering in paper forms. Here are instructions to get you started. But don’t worry! If you’re not tech savvy, you can be trained on the spot or use paper walk lists if you are more comfortable.
At the Canvass Launch
- All canvasses will specify a designated meeting place; it may be a home or local business.
- You will be contacted to confirm your attendance at least once before the canvass by campaign or Turn PA Blue Staff.
- Before the canvass, you can expect a brief training with information about the candidate, the district you are canvassing in and the targeted voters. You will also be provided with a script.
- You’ll be given materials including: 1) a walk list with addresses and voter info; 2) campaign literature; 3) voter registration forms (in case there are unregistered voters or people who have moved). Don’t worry! The canvass leader will explain everything!
- We will always walk in pairs, and you can be linked with an experienced canvasser if it’s your first time.
- Keep important phone numbers in hand, including the number for the canvass organizer should questions arise. This should be given to you at the launch site. If not, be sure to ask for it.
- Keep campaign literature in a pocket or somewhere else that is easily accessible. You don’t want to waste time at the door hunting through papers.
- Make sure you find out where you are supposed to go when you are finished your shift. This could be the same or a different location.
How to be Successful at the Door
- Knock reasonably loudly and then take a few steps back. We want the person who opens the door to feel comfortable.
- Know how to pronounce the candidate’s name.
- Know your audience! Age, gender, neighborhood, and other information can help you tailor your conversation. This demographic information will be provided on your walk list, digital or print. Take cues from your list and from any signs or decorations at the house. (We LOVE houses with “Hate Has No Home Signs”!
- Understand the purpose of canvass. Are you there to identify supporters? Persuade voters to support a candidate? Remind supporters to vote on election day? The language you use will vary depending on why you’re canvassing and on where we are in the election cycle.
- Be yourself! The script is there as a starting point. Familiarize yourself with the main points, but make it your own. Use your personal story to connect with voters. Personal conversations have the biggest impact on turnout.
- During a typical persuasion canvass, be sure to:
- Demonstrate why you care enough to do this. (“As a parent of a special needs child…” “As a senior citizen…”)
- Articulate the values that are important to you. (“I am concerned with X.” “I am passionate about Y.” “I want to be sure that Z.”)
- Discuss what matters to the voter? (Ask open-ended questions. “What issues are important to you and your family?”)
- Make a connection to the candidate. (“Jane Doe is in favor of X.” “Jane Doe has been working hard to Y.” “Jane Doe will fight hard to prevent Z.”)
- Perhaps most importantly, be sure to make the ASK! (“Can Jane count on your support?” “Can we count on you to vote for Jane on election day?”)
- If you don’t know an answer, be honest. Listen to voters’ concerns. Offer to connect them with the candidate, who will get back to them with an answer. And if they ask you about an issue with which you aren’t familiar, make a note for your organizer and have someone get back to them.
- Social science shows that it is important to THANK THEM FOR BEING A VOTER (it helps them self-identify as a voter) and MAKE A SPECIFIC PLAN TO VOTE (their voting location, what time they’re going to vote, how they’re getting there, and who they’re going with. This helps them visualize themselves voting and increases the odds of them doing so).
- In the weeks leading up to GOTV (the 4 days before election day), help the voter make a plan to vote. Keep the conversations friendly but focused. Ask if they know where their polling place is and if they have transportation to the polls. Suggest a carpool to get other friends and neighbors to the polls as well.
- Be positive! Voters will respond to your enthusiasm and energy. Don’t ever be rude or engage in arguments, even if you strongly disagree what they are saying. Don’t speak negatively of other points of view or people, including opposing candidates.
- Don’t give people an out. Avoid language like “Do you have a minute to talk or are you busy?” or “Can we count on your support or are you still undecided?” These types of questions make it easy for someone to shut down the conversation.
- Do not leave literature in or on mailboxes/mail slots; it is against the law. Make sure all your volunteers know this. Leave literature in the door or under the doormat.
- Listen and learn: Hear what’s on the minds of voters and gain a deeper understanding about what matters to people outside of your own bubble.
- Don’t get discouraged if lots of folks aren’t home. This is a cumulative effort and every conversation matters. Focus instead on all the great voter contact you made!
When you are done, you can return to the meetup location or campaign office where you will:
- Return any extra campaign literature.
- Debrief with fellow canvassers to hear about what worked well and how to improve conversations for next time.
- Pat yourself on the back, and put your feet up! You made a difference today!