Tag Archives: GOTV

Puzzled and perplexed: “undecided” voters

Puzzled: adj. uncertain as to action or choice

Perplexed: adj. filled with uncertainty

I’ve been doorbelling and phone-calling local voters in an effort to determine who are “our people” – folks who will vote for Democrats and therefore need to gotten out to vote (or in my county which only votes by mail, to mail in their ballots).

While many folks simply may not want to disclose to a stranger which way they plan to vote, I’ve talked to a bunch of people who say they’re still undecided, and need to “study up a bit more…”

My question is this: have they been living under a rock for the past 18 months? We’ve been bombarded in every possible media format with candidate and economic news. Everyone is talking about the election, even my hairdresser and my mail man. How can anyone still be puzzled about who to vote for? Or do these folks just like all the attention they get from pollsters and GOTV activists like me?

The humorist David Sedaris has a fresh take on undecided voters:

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Peregrinations around my precinct

Peregrination: n. to travel, especially on foot

Precinct: n. political district

So many good Democratic candidates running for office, so much competition from shitty ones, and so little time to sway an ignorant or indifferent public.

Although you can talk with more voters in a given amount of time by phone, and it’s considerably cozier to reach out from a phone room than from a hard stretch of pavement in the rain, the most effective get-out-the-vote (GOTV) strategy involves going door to door, meeting people face to face.

The advantages are many:

  • you get to see how people are really living
  • they get to meet you in person and see that you’re also a human being – perhaps even a person who cares about their issues
  • it’s hard to demonize someone you’re talking to on your doorstep
  • you can answer questions and hand them useful literature
  • occasionally you can even change someone’s mind or convince them that it’s worth the effort to vote.

I’ve walked the streets several times using a list of registered voters and visiting only a few houses on a block where we knew that independent or undecided voters lived, leaving the rest of the homes alone. Since we don’t register by party in Washington, at every election we have to identify those folks who are likely to vote Democratic so we can make sure they vote.

I don’t like this targeted walking because it’s a lot of walking and not a lot of contact.  Many people don’t like that you have a list and know their names.

Yesterday I walked for a first-time candidate for Washington State Senate, David Carrier. His goal is slightly different: to make sure folks know that he exists; get some written information about himself out there and maybe even answer questions.  Instead of a list we used a Google map of a few blocks of the neighborhood, and we knocked on every door. I went up one side of the street and another volunteer worked across the street. Whether or not someone answered, we left literature. If they answered, we gave them 30-second pitch and assessed their response to David and the Democratic ticket.

Then we filled in a sheet with the street address, gender and approximate age of the person we spoke to, plus our assessment of their voting inclinations.  Back at the office when we make GOTV calls, we’ll use the address (and our voter database) to call those who said they were leaning Democratic.  No house left behind.

We got to talk with many more people, and who knows, we might even have charmed a few Republicans and opened their minds a crack.

In fact, my pen ran out of ink at the home of an older man who had just told me he would never vote Democratic.  He seemed like a nice guy, though, so I just decided what the hell, and asked him if a kind Republican such as himself could bring himself to find a pencil to “lend” me so I could finish my work.

“Come on in,” he said, and began rummaging around on a nearby desk.

“Here,” he said, handing me a fresh ball-point pen, “have a nice rest of the day.”