'Some random old guy'

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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I did GOTV (“Get Out the Vote”) canvassing today in south Louisville. I always enjoy canvassing, because you get to meet people, make a difference, and have some interesting experiences along the way. Here are my thoughts on the day, as well as a few of those experiences.

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It was pretty cold when I started, but sunny. (I really don’t like canvassing in the rain.) I’ve done this enough that I have a system: look at the map, pick a section, park the car in the middle of the section, then walk up one side and down the other till I get back to the car. Get in, warm back up, repeat.

The neighborhood where I canvassed was perfect: houses close together, fairly close to the street, easily-visible house numbers. Put me in a neighborhood like that, and I’m a canvassing fool.

I have a pretty set system at the door, too: knock on the door or the door-frame five times, wait, listen for movement, knock five times again, wait, listen. No sound? Mark them Not Home and get on to the next one.

If someone answers, though, you do the script: ask for the voter on the list, ask them how committed they are to vote, make sure they know their polling place, see if they need a ride, get them to say again that they are definitely going to vote, thank them and leave. Mark the sheet after you have left the front porch.

This year’s script had a twist: ask them to rate their likelihood of voting on a scale of 1 to 10. Then ask why they gave that rating. According to the field worker at headquarters, this question and follow-up helps lock in their commitment. I liked it; you could tell the “why?” question got them thinking.

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At one house, a young mother answered the door, child on her hip. She said she was going to vote. When I asked about her husband, she said “Well, I’m not sure about him.” I asked why, and she said “Because he’s deployed. Qatar.”

I told her to thank him for his service the next time they talked. Then I looked her in the eye and said “Thank YOU for YOUR service. The home front service is important too.” She smiled, but it was a tired smile.

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I had any number of houses where the voter on my list was a teacher, or related to a teacher. Those houses usually cut me off as soon as I said “I’m a volunteer with Kentucky Democrats,” with them saying “We are absolutely going to vote, all of us, and we’re voting for Beshear.” The emotion was usually palpable, and there was no doubt about their determination to go to the polls.

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People who come to the door are usually at least pleasant, but not always. Sometimes you get a gruff-faced person, usually a man, whose opening greeting is “Yeah, whaddaya want?”

I had one of those where the man answering was much taller than I, and not too pleasant. I asked for his wife (the name on my list), and instead of calling her to the door he repeated his “whaddaya want” opening greeting.

So, I went into my script anyway, and he cut me off. “We’re a union house, working people, and we always vote, and we always vote the Democratic ticket. We’ll be there.” Still gruff.

I thanked him, marked my sheet, and moved on to the next house.

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And now for the most fun experience of the day.

I went up to one house and did my knocking thing. Some teenager peeked out the window, then let the blind fall back in place. I heard someone inside the house call out “Who is it?” And the teenager replied, easily loud enough for me to hear outside, “Some random old guy.”

Well, I thought that was hilarious, and started laughing. I was still laughing when the door opened. I looked at the lady who answered the door and said “Some random old guy, huh?” And the lady and I both started laughing again.

Another lady joined her at the door, and we had a great visit. Turned out they were both teachers; they were certainly going to vote, and so were many of their friends. We talked about teaching, and about the election, and joked about the grand-daughter’s comment.

As I left, I told them “Be sure to tell your grand-daughter about the sign in the restaurant window: ‘Don’t laugh at our coffee; some day you too will be old and gray.'” They thought that was great, and said they would surely tell her. We had a final chuckle, and I went on to the next house.

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A few final thoughts on the canvassing overall:

The South Louisville office was full of people when I got there this morning, with lots of activity. Made me feel good about the work out there. I’m sure they could use more canvassers, but it was a good start to the day.

They are using a condensed canvas sheet, which is SO much better than the layout they’ve used in the past. Only one or two sheets, instead of trying to keep track of twenty.

They’re also using a sticky-note leave-behind, instead of the door hangers. Again, just so much better. Why someone didn’t think of this sooner, I don’t know.

The script is clear and easy to remember. And as I said above, I like the “why” question.

I asked the lady who seemed to be in charge how it was going, and she said that they were at the bottom of the level they want to be at. They ARE at that level, but they hope by the end of the weekend to be much closer to optimal. It will depend on how many more people show up to do GOTV canvassing over the next two days.

I am thinking about pulling another shift or two before Tuesday.

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