November 6, 2006

Some Notes on Canvassing

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 5:26 am

For the campaigns:
I think I heard somewhere that the “dirty secret” of political campaigns is that there’s not enough work to give to the volunteers. If this isn’t true, campaign staffers sure act like it is, given the disorganized pile of crap they usually dump on their fresh-faced volunteers. Now I don’t want to make too much of the noble sacrifice of, you know, people like me, but I will say this: I have other things I could be doing with a sunny afternoon. I want to feel like my efforts are making an impact (even if it’s not true). Get your shit together. Do not waste my time. This will benefit you in at least two ways: (a) I will get more things done for you in the time I have to give, and (b) I will want to give you more of my time in the future. Dig it.

  • Coordinate your efforts. Keep track of who you have called and where you have knocked and do not call or knock again for an appropriate period. Do not send two people to knock on the same door on the same day. This annoys voters and volunteers alike.
  • Clean up your data. Today, I was knocking at the doors of Democratic precinct captains who were running election day GOTV efforts, asking them to please remember to vote. They were incredulous. Yesterday, I was walking 200 yards uphill to knock on one door. This micro-targeting stuff might work, but it’s hell on the volunteers. Don’t send me to visit people who don’t need my visit, or who have moved, or who are dead. Don’t send a man on foot to do a man in a car’s job.
  • Give me a route. Oddly enough, I’ve never been to precinct 12-1 in Lower Merrien, PA. I don’t know my way around. Campaigns have caught on to MapQuest, but they need to take this one step further: map the houses I’m supposed to visit and the order I should visit them in. Give me the list of addresses in route order. (In the campaigns’ favor, this requires more than the average Excel-jockeying that seems to go into their list management. A note to the entrepreneurial hacker: you should be able to get a few hundred dollars out of every political campaign in the country if you provide a tool that makes this easy. I imagine the Google Maps API would get you half-way there.)
  • Buy me lunch. You want me to meet you at 9 AM. At 11 AM you hand me a clipboard and a bottle of water and you ask me to be back by 4. What do normal people do between the hours of 11 and 4? Sack lunch! It’s a no-brainer!

For the suburbs:

  • Put numbers on your damn house. Do you ever have food delivered? Would you like an ambulance to find you in case of emergency? Do you want campaign volunteers to knock on your door every weekend in October? Just put some numbers on your damn house.
  • Put the numbers in order, or something. I mean, seriously. Is this a problem? Also, streets are continuous thoroughfares: they may curve, but they may not halt and recommence in another location. If it ends and starts again somewhere else, it’s a different street. Period.

Best Republican dirty trick I saw with my own eyes:
A yard sign looking exactly like a “Casey for Senate” sign, but which said instead “Casey for“. Curious voters will be surprised to discover Bob Casey wants to give ice cream and nuclear weapons to Mexicans who have sworn to destroy us.


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