Canvassing Commentary

A big component of our efforts to help the Hillary campaign is connecting, and canvassing, with campaign headquarters in battleground states. This typically consists of registering voters, disseminating information regarding the democratic candidates, as well as poll locations and timing, and committing people to vote for Hillary. These stops serve both as a tangible way to help the Clinton campaign and as a means of engaging with people in neighborhoods we would not otherwise visit. Since last we posted one the ole blogosphere, we spent one day in Grand Rapids, MI and one in Milwaukee, WI, registering voters and informing people that early voting had begun, respectively.

Some of the most valuable aspects of these outings are the responses of the people we engage with. They range from exuberantly kind to aloof to hostile and inclined to call the police (see prior post from Concord, New Hampshire). While roaming the streets of Grand Rapids, registering voters, we began writing down responses in an effort to keep track of some of the overarching thoughts and feelings people have about this election. A few of the most interesting, and telling, responses collected were,

“I’m voting for Jill Stein so that I can feel good about myself when whoever gets elected screws everything up.” This is not the first time we have encountered this sentiment, especially amongst young voters who perhaps do not remember what happened with Ralph Nader in 2000. 

“I’m registered to vote, but I’m not voting in this election. I’m not a woman voter,” shouted a man as he ran off across the street so as not to be admonished for the last statement. Similarly, a woman in Pittsburgh told Jamie and Nina, “I’m worried that Hillary is a woman, so she has emotions.” If only these views were surprising. For more infuriating examples of how Hillary’s gender has impacted her campaign, read Larry Womback’s recent piece in the Huffington Post.

One man, Cesar, originally from Puerto Rico, but now a US citizen, explained that he wanted to vote but did not have information on the candidates because he could not read. This is not an isolated problem considering that 32 million adults in the United States are illiterate. Many will not vote, but those who do will make their decisions based on what they hear, which is often less reliable then textual information. Of course, one does not need to be illiterate to rely almost solely on what they hear from others to make their decision. On three separate occasions, Meredith encountered a recently turned 18 year old walking around Grand Rapids with their mother. When she asked the 18 year old if they wanted to register, their immediate response was “no thank you,” until all three of their mothers pestered them into registering. One young woman said, “but mom, I don’t know anything about the election. Who will I vote for? Well, I guess I’ll just vote for whoever you and dad are voting for.”

As individuals privileged to have grown up in households where education and critical thought is highly valued, it is easy to forget that many don’t have the time, resources, or interest in informing themselves about our upcoming election. What can be done about this you ask? For one, you can vote for the candidate who has been working to reform our education system for decades!

Lastly, a public service announcement to all of our faithful readers: in many states, early voting has begun, so get on out there! As we told our canvassees in Milwaukee, if you vote early then you can volunteer with your local Hillary headquarters on election day to ensure that people are able to go vote. If you have questions about your voting locations, here is a good resource for voters in every state.

Stronger together,

Meredith, Mike, Nina, Ben, and Jamie

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