Yesterday was two days before the 2016 election, and Dave and I chose to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon volunteering for the Get Out the Vote effort. By nature, we are both Shy Persons who detest and avoid cold-calling and accosting strangers.
But we decided that desperate times call for crawling out of our comfort zone.
We were assigned to make the second pass through a South Tucson neighborhood that’s close to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Our trainer told us that each household included at least one potential voter who’s registered as a Democrat in the past, if not currently. She then offered snacks and water before handing us a binder containing data sheets, a map, and a script with friendly non-threatening language that stresses the importance of voting in general—and adds hopefully, “Can the Arizona Democratic Party count on your vote?”
Our data sheets listed individuals by name, age, address, gender, political party, and if they’re on the Pima County Early Voter list. Most were male and female Democrats, but some were listed as (O) for Other party or Other gender.
Our job was to indicate on the sheet if the person was “In Support,” “Against,” “Voted Already,” or “Not Home.” There’s room on the form to add comments like “This person has moved—,” “Person refused to talk to us—,” or “Large fierce dog prevented access.”
We spent three hours and knocked on about 30 doors. At around half the addresses, no one responded: Sometimes we concluded no one was home; other times, we were pretty sure someone was home but chose to not come to the door.
Here’s what else we noticed:
• The process wasn’t nearly as scary as two Shy Persons thought it would be, and it was actually kind of fun.
• Tucson has a remarkable number of small yappy dogs who take their jobs as four-legged doorbells very seriously.
• Many people have their televisions on in the middle of Sunday afternoon—whether they’re there or not.
• The voter rolls need to be updated: We were surprised by how many people had moved away.
• The friendliest, kindest, most courteous people were either Hispanic or Vietnamese (his wife was making egg rolls that smelled scrumptious): They all shook our hands, thanked us for what we were doing, and one even offered us water.
• We were particularly impressed by the woman who explained that her daughter-in-law, the potential voter, had just given birth that day—and could we come back another time? (We all agreed the voter might have more important things on her mind.)
• The crabbiest person was a twenty-something mom who said, “I don’t want to talk politics—“ and quickly closed the door. (Well, really, this year? Who could blame her?) Oh, and the man we could hear but didn’t see whose young niece told us: “He says to tell you ‘I don’t vote!’”
• All the kids who answered the doorbell—they ranged from about 3 to a young man who just turned 18 in September (and hadn’t registered to vote)—were unfailingly friendly and polite.
• One woman, age 43, said she hadn’t voted in a while and wondered when Election Day was …
• And then there was the potential voter’s teenage son who said: “My mom voted already. I know she didn’t vote for, umm, that guy—what’s his name? She voted for, umm, the other person …”
Name recognition, gender, age, nationality of origin, crabby or shy—all that aside … .
Whatever happens Tuesday, may ALL people be safe—and may civility, kindness, and respect for the law prevail.