236 volunteers came out to knock on doors in Arizona last Saturday. In the middle of Excessive Heat Warnings. 236 volunteers. Unfortunately, because of the heat wave, we had to modify our canvassing routine, which means we knocked far fewer doors than we otherwise would have. But a Heat Emergency is a heat emergency, which is why I am so appreciative for those who do come out.
So I have one over-riding principle here: volunteers are golden. We don’t treat volunteers with kid gloves — we ask more and expect more from volunteers who knock doors with us because we have a system that works, that considers their time knocking as the valuable asset that it really is. But saying this is different than doing it, and this is the first year we are knocking doors in Arizona. So the point is, 236 volunteers trusted us to not waste their time — or weaken their health. That’s on us, the organizers.
We knew it was coming. So canvassing in a heat wave was anticipated. We know how to do this (I started knocking on doors in Central Florida, where primaries were in late August) and one of the reasons why the Obama connection is so important to what we are doing now is that the field program in the Obama campaigns also prized volunteers to a high degree. No one wants a volunteer to get heat stroke, no one wants volunteers even coming close. Volunteers are valuable, and the fact is that if volunteers have health issues during a volunteer shift, they aren’t likely to come back. Volunteers are golden.
We cut turf differently during the summer for states that can experience hot late mornings/early afternoons. Hope Springs from Field PAC sends out volunteer teams in the hot months led by a driver. In Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Georgia — even North Carolina -- we cut summer turf and map out that turf with a car and driver in mind. We want a driver/supervisor to have eyes on each volunteer every 20-30 minutes or so. And when volunteers get too hot, they jump into the vehicle and join the watch on the other members of the team. We also know to cut turf in smaller segments than we would in the fall or spring.
So there are repeated opportunities to cool off, and to do some paperwork in an air-conditioned vehicle. With lots of cold water, baby wipes, cooling towels and an air-conditioned vehicle, our canvassers are safe, looked-after and don't look haggard when they knock on doors. We also suggest that people bring a change of shirts and I've even have drivers that create "privacy environments" in their SUVs for changing into dryer clothes.
It is interesting, because the driver is the key feature of this summer system and yet most volunteers want to knock, not drive. I am reminded of this because our organizers in Phoenix asked 5 more senior volunteers to serve as drivers on Saturday and they objected. They wanted to knock on doors. “You have to explain that other volunteers are more likely to trust older drivers,” I explained to organizers afterwards. But the point is, they want to knock, even in an Excessive Heat Warning. They want to make contact with voters. That’s how they believe they contribute. Having said that, we’ve had volunteers ask to be drivers in the past because they understand how important the role is. I wonder if we will have people do that this year with the rising price of gas (in Georgia, we did hand out $20 gift cards to those who served as drivers last year — we may have to do that again).
But that isn’t the only “new” thing to report from Saturday’s canvass. We’ve had a couple of volunteers who come out in the Tucson area who have photos of Loved Ones taped on the back of their clipboards. Now we train volunteers to use their clipboards as a presentational device. Even those who use mini-VAN to walk with take out clipboards for that purpose. It may only have one copy of the Issues Survey, but they have a copy to show to voters in an attempt to keep their attention and encourage their participation. Voters who see the survey as they are asked the first couple of questions seem to be more willing to answer questions. I can’t explain why.
But these volunteers are knocking with photos of people/family they lost due to gun violence. They are making clear the reason why they canvass (and, hopefully, not influencing voters before they answer the survey questions) but you know that some people will ask about the photos. Smart use of empty space though (I’d put brochures of candidates for whom I was collected signatures on the back but they did this independent of me).
For the past 3 months, we’ve been focusing our canvassing efforts in Arizona on the “Toss Up” Congressional District west of Phoenix (AZ-4; Stanton-D) and the currently Democratic district that was re-mapped into a more Republican one (AZ-6; Kirkpatrick-D) east of Tucson. But that’s not the reason we are knocking on doors there. We are focused on maintaining a Democratic Senate because this election seems more important than ever. Especially now, in light of the leaked Alito draft that could overturn Roe v Wade.
We asked voters who opened their doors if they were registered to vote at their current address. And we note that one of the benefits for those who are not currently registered at their current address is that the new Arizona voter registration form allows you to sign up for the Active Early Voting List to receive their early ballot by mail. Surprisingly, this is encouraging voters to update their voter registrations! It’s the little things.
Our major focus has been the Issues Survey. Normally, around 65% of the voters we talk to at their doors answer some or all of these questions although it was slightly lower on Saturday (I don’t think any of our results reached that percentage last weekend, though). Each week, we ask voters about what issue they think is the most urgent facing America right now. Gas prices was, once again, the top Issue mentioned by voters we talked to on Saturday. Last week, Gun Violence was second, and the Economy, including the possibility of a Recession, was the third most mentioned issue.
Hope Springs from Field PAC led canvasses in the suburbs of the two Arizona metropolitan areas last Saturday. We have been knocking on the doors of Democrats and Independents in the western suburbs of both Phoenix and Tucson, swing neighborhoods were at least three conservative groups have also been out knocking on doors, although one is totally focused on a single issue. It is clear that there is a ground war going on in Arizona, and we need to rise to the challenge here.
We knock on the doors of Democratic and Independent voters, which means we aren’t seeing responses from anyone (yet) who identifies as Republican. At every door, we leave a piece of “show the flag” lit, something that tells them we were there and hopefully reinforces the Democratic brand. By our work and our presence we are trying to convey that Democrats care and we listen. The lit focuses on the things voters told us were important to them last fall, aiming to appeal to every voter. Far and away the number one issue that the voters we talked to in the Senate Swing States was inflation or price increases, and I imagine that concern has only increased since November.
Support (measured as job approval) for President Biden fell to 51% from the voters we talked to on Saturday (lowest number yet). But disapproval, fell, as well -- to 12%. Go figure. Support for Senator Kelly was also down this week (70%). But you can see in the graphic here that Senator Kelly is now “polling” above President Biden amongst the voters we have talked to in Arizona, which may explain why Kelly (as well as other Democratic Senators) feel free to break with the administration on issues they think voters care about there.
Hope Springs from Field PAC has been knocking on doors in a grassroots-led effort to increase awareness of the fact that Democrats care about our voters and are working to protect their rights, and, in March, we will begin an even bigger effort. We are thinking about how to mitigate Voter Suppression efforts, get around them and make sure we have "super compliance," both informing and helping our voters meet the requirements and get out and vote. We are taking those efforts to the doors of the communities most effected (the intended targets or victims) of these new voter suppression laws.
Obviously, we rely on grassroots support, so if you support field/grassroots organizing, voter registration (and follow-up) and our efforts to protect our voters, we would certainly appreciate your support:
Hope Springs from Field PAC was started by former Obama Field Organizers because field was the cornerstone of our success. But the reason we won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 was because we registered voters and then turned them out! The approach we adopted was focused on listening, on connecting voters and their story to the candidate and our cause. Repeated face to face interactions are critical. And we are among those who believe that Democrats didn’t do as well in the 2020 Congressional races as expected because we didn’t knock on doors — and we didn’t register new voters (while Republicans did). We are returning to the old school basics: repeated contacts, repeated efforts to remind them of protocols, meeting them were they are. Mentoring those who need it (like first time and newly registered voters). Reminding, reminding, reminding, and then chasing down those voters whose ballots need to be cured.
Hope Springs has targeted states that have competitive Senate races in 2022 as well as districts that are remapped in ways that offer opportunities or vulnerabilities for Democrats next year. As not every state has completed their re-maps, re-districting hasn’t yet made those opportunities/needs apparent. The Senate map started out clear. That may be changing. There are places we need to defend (Georgia and Arizona) and there are opportunities. North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are such opportunities. We’d like to get into Nevada, too, and perhaps others that appear more competitive at that time — if we can generate the resources needed to do so. There is a lot of work to be done!
We also ask voters who open their doors whether they want to fill out a Constituent Service Request form. And, when we start using this approach somewhere, we get a higher response rate on service requests than we do after we have been knocking for awhile. I can’t really explain why this is true, but it was true on Saturday, as well. This week, we collected 53 CSRs in Arizona. We usually collect several dozen CSR’s in Arizona (it doesn’t seem to fluctuate as much as other states).
Constituent Service Requests are handed over to (hopefully Democratic) office holders with responsibilities for the area of the request. Q-slips will be sent directly to the campaigns of Democratic candidates. Comments from Observation Forms are entered into VAN, as well.
Hope Springs from Field PAC has a hybrid approach. We aren’t interested in competing with regular campaign field organizing (or, quite frankly, other independent groups that will start knocking doors in the fall). We are in the field before they get there and then move on when the Democratic campaigns start their intensive field work. Indeed, when we wind up the typical field work by Labor Day, we will encourage all the volunteers working with us to move over to the Senate campaigns in their states (and hope that our field organizers will be hired on by those campaigns). After Labor Day, we will begin organizing our Election Protection Project.
But we are also cognizant that Democratic turnout has traditionally dropped off more than Republicans in non-presidential years. So early, frequent voter contact is more important to our side. Equally important, though, is that starting early means that we can make up for our inability to register new voters in the presidential election because we took Covid and the health of our base seriously. Registering new voters (and re-registering existing voters at their current address, in compliance with HAVA) at their door is the hard way to do voter registration, but we catch people that our voter registration campaigns can miss because of their emphasis on larger-scale or mass voter registration.
By starting early, and aiming towards super-compliance with these really, really onerous provisions, Hope Springs from Field PAC seeks to undermine that strategy, while informing voters about the new laws and regulations aimed at them. There’s a lot of work to be done, but fortunately, the three states that are making it most difficult are also states in which you can knock on doors at least 10 months out of the year. And, with your help, we will be there, getting our people to super-comply with these restrictive provisions.
If you are able to support our efforts to protect Democratic voters, especially in minority communities, expand the electorate, and believe in grassroots efforts to increase voter participation and election protection, please help:
Thank you for your support.