Contributed by Cindi Sternfeld
Greetings Indivizzies! Here we are again, preparing for another fight to save our Democracy. If you are reading this newsletter, I will assume that you are already up to date on the attacks to our democracy that have come in the form of voter suppression, a cherry-picked Supreme Court bench, dis-information and so much more. No, I don’t need to beat the drum of WHY we need to work to hold Congress. I am here to share some thoughts on HOW we do it.
Registered Democrats hold the numerical advantage over registered Republicans in many of the places where ILNH members live. Our challenge is getting ALL of the Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters to vote. High Democratic turnout is a sure-fire way for us to hold majorities in both houses.
Traditional canvassing, e.g. knocking on voter’s doors to share information for election day and about the candidate, is the single most effective way to get out the vote. A volunteer spends three to five minutes at each door and moves to the next. The goal is to get to as many doors as possible to enhance a candidate’s name-recognition and to remind the voter that the election is coming. Training takes just a few minutes and is offered before volunteers head out to knock on doors. Canvassiers might ask questions such as, ‘did you know there is an election in November?” and, “do you have a plan to vote?” They might tell a voter why Candidate A is a good choice or why Candidate B is not a good choice related to a particular issue like women’s healthcare or environment, etc. Volunteers read a prepared script and answer questions or refer the voter to websites that have answers. It’s valuable and effective for voters who vote.
I learned about ‘Deep Canvassing’ in ILNH’s early days when several of us attended an Indivisible National regional meeting. The idea was simple: canvassing that leads to conversations are particularly effective to turn-out voters who tend not to vote. Helping to build a conversation that allows the voter to revisit and reaffirm their values is the most effective way to get low-propensity voters to vote.
I was doubtful in the beginning but once I got it, I realized that this approach is perfect for me. I don’t have to convince anyone one of anything. My job is to start a conversation and let the voter’s own words do the work. I can’t say that I understand why it works, but I know it does.
Soon after the 2017 election, we met the folks from Changing The Conversation Together (CTC). Several of us participated in intensive training, subsequently canvassed and even became trainers for the CTC. CTC built a successful program that helped Biden win Pennsylvania and thankfully, they are back at it working in Philadelphia for the midterms! Their approach is intensive and spending 20-30 minutes at the door is common.
The ILNH Leadership team is sold on the effectiveness of both deep canvassing and traditional canvassing. Many of us have used a hybrid approach that allows a canvasser to share a story, actively listen to a voter’s story, highlight commonalities and connect them to the candidate. We know that this can be done in the context of a traditional canvass provided that the canvasser has deep canvassing skills in their toolbox.
Community Action: ILNH is collaborating with several organizations to bring this training to volunteers so they can use this hybrid approach. Indivisible National, Changing the Conversation Together, and Democratic Committees are all working to make deep canvassing training available to a large number of volunteers. You can be one of them! The training happens in two sessions: Intro to Deep Canvassing, and Becoming a Deep Canvasser. Each session is 90 minutes in length. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Deep Canvassing Training” in the subject line if you’re ready to save democracy one conversation at a time