My First Canvass: I Lived to Tell the Tale

Last week, I told you that I had never canvassed for Fair Wisconsin. Well, I finally did it. Ingrid and I went canvassing with about 20 other volunteers on Saturday in Green Bay. It felt really good to know there were 509 of us in 17 cities statewide.

Although it wasn’t easy every step of the way, it was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had since being involved with Fair Wisconsin. I saw for myself that it's truly the most effective way for us to figure out where voters stand and deliver them the information they need to make an informed decision before voting.

By the time I finished my list of houses, I found more people who were ready to vote no than those who were either undecided or voting yes.

I also found that you can’t rely on stereotypes to predict how someone will vote or why they feel that way.

After listening to my explanation of the ban, one woman in her 70’s stared at me with tightly closed lips. I nervously tried to finish my explanation, and she was still staring at me, not giving me any indication where she stood. I willed myself to ask, “Have you decided how you will vote?” She stared for a few seconds longer, and then quietly said, “My husband and I don’t think it should be anyone else’s business. We are voting no.”

In one front yard, a middle-aged man was trying to cut down a small tree with a chainsaw. I wanted to skip this house, but I forced myself to step onto the driveway. He turned off the saw and asked what I wanted. After launching into my introduction and showing him the text of the amendment, he said he'd seen the commercials and didn’t like that this could even affect a man and woman living together. He said he needed to think about it more but was leaning toward voting no. I gave him our material so he could keep thinking about it.

One of the last houses was preparing for a summer party. The house was very large and new, and the garage was lined with tables and coolers. I could hear little kids laughing and yelling in the back yard. A woman in her early 30's came to the door with a little girl peeking out between her legs. The woman seemed nervous as I spoke, and I could tell she was trying to figure out which side I was on. She said at first that she wasn’t sure how she felt. I emphasized again that I was against the amendment. Then she said, “Look, it shouldn’t matter what sex you are. You should be able to marry the person you love.” Until I talked to her, she hadn’t understood that a no vote reflected her belief. When I asked if her husband felt the same way (he was listed on the voter file), she said she was certain they would both vote no.

I did run into voters who support the ban. Three different men said simply that "marriage is a man and a woman." When I tried to explain further, they weren't interested, except for one older gentleman who sat down with me on his porch. He told me he doesn't believe unmarried couples should have any rights. When I asked about gay couples who have been together for years but cannot marry, he told me "they don't need the rights." Besides, he said, they have a right not to be put in jail. He was perfectly polite and seemed to enjoy our conversation, but it was clear he couldn't be persuaded. I thanked him for his time and moved on to the next house.

Almost every person I talked to had seen the ads, which have been on the air for seven weeks in Green Bay. Clearly, the ads are making a difference. Almost everyone I talked to understood that there is a second sentence to the amendment. At least three people told me they had been planning to vote yes but after seeing the ads they intended to vote no.

It was a good experience, and I plan to do it again.

We need you to canvass too. This weekend we did an incredible thing, but it only made a dent in the ambitious goal we have of reaching hundreds of thousands of voters before November 7.

Please consider signing up today for an upcoming canvass in your part of the state.


At 1:35 PM, Anonymous JoeW said...

Good diary Josh. Your account reminds me of the terror I experienced on my first League of Conservation Voters canvass prior to the 2004 elections. Only lasts for the first couple houses; after four or five, you're a pro.

Thanks for doing this. If I'm in town, I hope to join FAIR on the next canvass.

At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a UW student new to Madison and have been looking for a way to get involved with this cause. Upon discovering the 'Fair Wisconsin' office I stopped by to see what I could do. Being incredibly freaked out by going door-to-door I figured that perhaps I would be of better help in the office with data entry, etc. Reading about your first canvassing experience, though, I have recognized how this is such a critical aspect of securing neccesary votes. Now, instead of being absolutely terrified, I'm looking forward to my first door-to-door experience.
Thank you so much for your post; if it has inspired me, it surely has done the same for others. . .

At 1:57 PM, Blogger KarenE said...

Good job, Josh! Thanks for canvassing for FAIR here in GB! :)

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Josh! This is Sandee in Mineral Point, and I am SO PROUD OF YOU!! It is not always easy to go out, and I get butterflies every time before I go, but I am always so grateful I went out and canvassed. I firmly believe it is the only way to educate people about the amendment and to have a chance to convince them to vote "NO" and to make them think about the amendment. I always end up when I leave a door by saying, "I am voting "No", and we believe a Fair Wisconsin will vote No." (and if they are undecided, I add that I hope they will vote "No", too). I figure it is my last chance of a NO vote from them! I am so glad you took the plunge. I am continuing to go out as I think it is really our biggest hope of defeating this amendment! Sandee

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Ed T said...

I am a 68 year old grandfather. I have done several door to door canvasses in Janesville, but my legs just can't handle that much walking. Therefore, I now volunteer at special events such as the Farmer's Market. I am concerned about the kind of world my grandchildren will live, regardless of their sexual orientation.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of your canvassers just stopped at my house in Eau Claire, and I genuinely appreciated the explanation of the amendment. Keep up the good fight!

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Antonious said...

Very moving account of your breakthrough experience and hard work. Keep up the good fight, J!

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Pkarm said...

Sadly my area of Green Bay was missed, I would have enjoyed talking to you. Proudly I am voting yes and many people I know are doing the same. Facts are the people of WIsconsin do not support gay marriage and here like everywhere else it will not happen.

At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

Thank you so much for writing this personal account. It is the personal sharing, and respect of one another in the process, that makes all the difference. I am certain of it. We will be hosting an Open House Fundraiser in a few weeks, and we've found what you said to be so true: we cannot guess how someone will feel by looking at them. We assumed there were people who knew about it, who had never heard of the amendment or of Fair Wisconsin. Talk to everyone, please. It is scary, but it is wonderful.


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