In case you wondered what I do all day:
Actually, lately I can’t do a lot of door-knocking because of my mobility issues, but I train interns and volunteers on how to canvass. Occasionally I’m able to get out and knock doors for a little while.
I also do a lot of the organizational stuff behind canvassing. Those clipboards in the video? Someone has to assemble the packets that go on them. First, I do what’s called cutting turf. There are certain people that the campaign wants us to reach out to–they’re called targets. They vary based on the stage of the campaign, the area, and the goals. It’s always Democrats and sometimes unaffiliated voters who lean Democrat. (Massachusetts has the greatest percentage of voters who aren’t affiliated with a party of any state.) Sometimes we target people who almost always vote, but mostly we target people who vote sporadically so that we can urge them to vote. (The perfect/excellent/likely voters are probably going to vote even if we don’t talk to them.) So I get on Votebuilder, the data management system used by pretty much every Democratic campaign, and pull a list of those people. Often, HQ will give us particular wards or precincts they want us to work on in particular towns, so I narrow my list to just those people. Then I get a map, and each house is a little dot. Depending on our goals and the number of canvassers we’re expecting, I have to cut turfs anywhere between 40 and 120 doors. You want the houses to be close together so it’s easy for the canvassers to walk, and if you can, you want to avoid steep hills and long driveways because they slow people down. In some places, you also have to beware of sketchy neighborhoods.
This is what it looks like when I first start cutting a turf. It’s a street map, and all the houses are dots. (And yes, this is my town, and it really does have a park called Mary Brown’s Dingle. I have not been able to find out why. New England is weird, man.)
This is what it looks like to cut a turf, only in Votebuilder, the lines are nice and straight instead of looking like they were drawn by a four-year-old. I’m not an artist, okay? Basically, I have to make sure that each turf (one outlined in red, the other in blue) have roughly equal numbers of doors and are reasonably easy to walk.
I spend an absurd amount of time every day doing this. It’s not difficult, but it’s fiddly and labor-intensive. And don’t get me started on how labor-intensive it is to get our printer to work.
We also make a lot of phone calls, so I have to cut the lists for those, too. That’s a similar process but without the maps, so it goes a lot quicker.
After canvasses and phone banks, all that data has to get entered into Votebuilder so all the campaign staff know who we’ve talked to and what they told us. A lot of that gets done automatically–we try to get canvassers to use a smartphone app called miniVAN (VAN is another name for Votebuilder), which lets them record their results and instantly sync it to our Votebuilder database. Most of our phone banks are done online, either through Votebuilder’s virtual phone banks or through an awesome predictive dialer called HubDialer, which lets us talk to 5-6 times more voters in the same amount of time. But we do have canvassers without smartphones and phone bankers without laptops, so I end up with big stacks of data. The results of each call or door has to be entered manually. Again, labor-intensive and fiddly, but not difficult.
I also make a lot of recruitment calls (asking people to volunteer) and confirmation calls (calling people who’ve signed up to volunteer to make sure they’re still coming). I collate data–campaigns are obsessed with metrics, and you have to report in frequently. It wouldn’t surprise me if they added “milligrams of caffeine consumed” and “cumulative sleep debt” to our metrics–they want to know every single detail, as long as it can be numericized. (Is that even a word? Whatevs.)
Plus, because my boss’s boss knows about my hatred of lawn signs, he thought it would be hilarious to make me the “yard sign coordinator” for our entire region. That means any time someone requests a yard sign, the call or email gets forward to me. I have to act like yard signs are awesome and say how sorry I am that we just gave away our last one because they’re going like hotcakes. “But there are lots of other ways you can help our Democratic ticket!” I tell them. “One really great way is to spend a couple hours knocking on doors. Would you be able to join us on Election Day?” Inevitably, they won’t–they just want to “help” the candidates passively. I swear to you, my boss did this entirely for his own amusement.
So yeah, this is the stuff I spend 14 hours a day doing. It ain’t like campaigns on The West Wing or anything–not as romantic as some people think it is. It’s probably not actually interesting to anyone but me, but I needed a distraction tonight. So you get 1000 words about it.