Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Cutting Down on Political Canvassers

Now that the primary is almost upon us, I have become one of those people nearly as detested as Jehovah’s Witnesses – a political canvasser. Between the anti-marriage amendment on the ballot and the presidential race, I walked so much in 2004 that I wore holes in my shoes and had to buy orthotic inserts for my falling arches.

I know that many of my readers hate having people like me knocking on their door, so save me some shoe leather (okay, rubber) and time by considering the options below before November.

1. Choose a f---ing party, already!

You don’t have to agree with everything in the platform to join a party, but choosing one will cut down on the number of people knocking on your door. Many people think that by listing themselves as ‘independent’, the parties will leave them alone. They’re wrong. What this listing actually translates to in canvass-ese is “Undecided Voter to Persuade”. People who belong to a political party are less attractive to canvassers from other parties, and can even cut down on some traffic from the canvassers from nonpartisan races.

2. If asked about a specific candidate, give the canvasser a name.

Some people think that if they say that they haven’t made their mind up yet, the person will go away. As above, they’re wrong. Instead, they are also labeled “Undecided Voter to Persuade” and someone else will be assigned to return to your house. It’s better to either please or offend them by naming somebody and becoming an identified supporter or opponent. You can always change your mind at the ballot box.

3. Vote in the primary, if you have one.

In many places, parties discourage more than one person from running for the same office so people can keep their resources together for the November election. Occasionally, however, there will be competition between people seeking the same nomination (e.g. the Presidential nomination), and there are always nonpartisan races to consider (these tend to be City Council or judges’ races).

Canvassers purchase access to the voter rolls, where they can find out how many times you’ve voted in the past. A person who votes in primaries and general elections is often considered a ‘reliable participant’ by their party and garners less attention as a result.

4. Buy a house in a well-established neighborhood.

Canvassers regularly recheck apartment buildings and neighborhoods with rental homes because the population tends to be transient and they need to keep their records current. They also tend to have the largest group of people who aren’t registered to vote, which makes them a magnet for not only political parties, but also civic-minded groups like America Votes, the League of Women Voters, and other organizations interested in recruiting warm bodies for the Cause.

Things that don’t work:

“I’m not registered to vote.” – See above about those civic-minded groups. They live for this sort of challenge. Expect them to visit regularly till you surrender.

Posting a “No Soliciting” sign – Guess what? Voter canvassing doesn’t fall under the legal definition of soliciting. They’re doing their civic duty.

Living in an exclusive neighborhood - This may deter door-by-door attempts, but it identifies you as having money, which is even worse than having a vote. Expect mail, spam, phone calls, and personal approaches from people who’d like a little of your money – and a little more, and a little more… Some of them might even live in the same gated community you do!

Posting a “Beware of Dog” sign if you don’t actually have a dog - Please note that fencing in your property makes this more convincing, but canvassers usually look to see if a dog is really around, and, if so, how big it is. My grandfather had a sign that read “Furious Dog – Not Responsible for Bodily Harm”, but the dog in question was a dachshund. I look for the dog.

Even if you have a pit bull, the sign doesn’t work 100% of the time because some canvassers are convinced (correctly or incorrectly) that they are ‘dog people’ and will try approaching your door anyway. At least the sign should be helpful in the lawsuit.

I hope, if nothing else, that the above tips help you understand how folks like me think - or at least how we've been instructed to think.

Just making my 'job' (hell, I'm a volunteer!) easier,

Sarah G