Today is the final day of early voting in the GA-06 run-off election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel. It has become the most expensive House race ever, and is one of the most-watched races in recent memory. The race is extremely close, although Ossoff appears to have a slight lead and Republicans are getting nervous.
Earlier this week, I was in GA-06 with a group of friends from Madison County. We spent 3 days canvassing in and around Tucker, GA. We were in good company: during the past month, dozens of Alabama activists have traveled to help our friends in Georgia. Several other groups are leaving today to spend the weekend getting out the vote, and others will be there for election day.
If you live within driving distance of North Georgia, you can still volunteer! Here’s the list of the Ossoff campaign’s district offices. Every single one of them will welcome your help!
Don’t worry if you’ve never canvassed before (they provide training) or that you “won’t know what to say” (they give you a script) or that people will be “mean” (we only met one).
Let me share our experience.
Arrive at HQ
The campaign assigned us to the field office in Tucker. We arrived mid-afternoon on Tuesday.
Imagine our delight when we learned that two of the staffers had Alabama connections! One young man is an Anniston native who is now studying at Harvard. The young woman who did our training has a grandfather who lives in Huntsville. We did some good, old-fashioned networking and then got to work.
The training is brief – 20 minutes or so – but thorough.
- App download: We installed the NGPVAN app on our phones and entered the “list code” to download our neighborhood canvassing assignment.
- Script: The trainer walked us through the process of voter contact – everything from “introduce yourself” to “thank the voter when you leave.” Since early voter was about to end, our focus was on encouraging people to vote by the end of today (Friday). The more people who early vote, the shorter the lines on election day and the more votes we have “banked” ahead of time. Oh, and, as we cheerfully explained to voters already exhausted by the mailers, ads, phone calls, and door knockers “Once you vote, we’ll leave you alone!”
- Advice: We also got safety tips like “stay in pairs,” “never go in someone’s house,” etc., but in 3 days and hundreds of houses, we never felt threatened or unsafe.
- Health: The HQ stocked copious amounts of sunscreen and bottled water – courtesy of Jon Ossoff’s mom, who doesn’t want anyone to get sunburned or dehydrated! Seriously: they told us that she delivers it to the HQ personally.
Using the App
It took us a couple of houses to get completely comfortable navigating through the app, but the learning curve is not steep. It’s an incredible repository of information about the voter you’re about to meet:
- Voter’s name, age, and address
- Info about voting habits, specifically, did he/she vote in the April 18 primary?
- Who do they support in the run-off?
- Intensity: How likely are they to vote and for whom?
- How many times have they been contacted and how (phone, email, text, canvassing)?
- What were the results of the contacts (for instance, agreed to early vote or vote by mail, is still undecided, etc)?
- Map that shows you the location of all the residences on your list.
- Procedures to enter the results of your contact with the voter.
As we canvassed and entered new information, we “synched” our data, uploading it to the central database. That gives the campaign almost real-time visibility about which voters are being contacted and the results of those interactions. The system also pulls in early voting information each night during the early voting period.
Each day, new walk lists are generated, and the names of people who voted early aren’t on the lists anymore. This late in the game, the walk and call lists contain mostly “lean Ossoff” or “strong Ossoff” voters. A week before the election, there isn’t much persuasion opportunity left, so the focus shifts towards getting known supporters to the polls.
Our canvassing experience
We were nervous initially; it’s a bit scary knocking on strangers’ doors and asking them personal stuff like “who are you voting for” and “will you vote early?”
But, in 3 days, our group only ran across one openly hostile person and another person who was a strong Handel supporter (but not hostile). Even people who were non-committal were friendly. We got offered water a number of times, which was very nice, although we had our own water with us. It gets hot on walking on asphalt and concrete when the temps outside are 90 degrees or so.
Because we were canvassing on weekdays, a lot of people on the lists weren’t home. I’m quite sure that those houses/apartments will get at least one more visit this weekend!
Except for the heat, which was pretty brutal, canvassing was a terrific experience. Don’t let the heat dissuade you from helping though. You work at your own pace and are free to take breaks to cool off, have a meal, etc. And you get to meet a great bunch of people.
If you can’t travel to the Atlanta area this weekend, you can still help. Contact your friends and family in the area and urge them to vote and volunteer. The campaign can help you make GOTV calls from home.
GA-06 voters have a tremendous opportunity to improve their representation in Congress and energize fellow Democrats ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Let’s help our neighbors.