Notes from the Field: Canvassing for marriage in Washington
October 17, 2012
For the past year months, the staff at Washington United for Marriage has been working hard to secure the freedom to marry in Washington state by running an intense field campaign. Every day of the week since August - rain or shine - dozens of canvassers are dispatched from the offices throughout the state, and they walk their canvassing routes, knocking on voters' doors (or, in Seattle-speak, "door-belling"), having conversations, and making the case for why voters should choose to APPROVE Referendum 74, the ballot measure that would uphold the marriage law passed by the state legislature in February. Each canvasser walks four to six miles in a typical canvassing session, having as many meaningful conversations with Washington residents as possible.
The canvassing operation in Washington is staffed by a wide range of marriage supporters; Tony Cani, who organizes the door-knocking for Washington United, said, "It's a big mix - young and old, gay and straight - there are people who've been in Washington their whole life, people who just moved, a huge range of people."
The residents who receive visits from Washington United canvassers are just as varied, ranging from fervent supporters to people who are more skeptical about marriage between same-sex couples. Every day, the canvassers log the results of their conversations, recording interesting stories and positive or negative feedback from prospective voters. Below, Tony Cani and the Washington United team have collected a few of those reports to give you an inside look on canvassing for the freedom to marry in Washington, and how we're moving closer to marriage each and every day.
"One canvasser, Ashlee, talked to an older man who said he wasn't sure about the referendum. In the conversation, it came out that his son is gay, but that they haven't spoken in several years. Ashlee told the man about her wedding and why it was so important to her and her family and asked if the voter would like to go to a wedding for his son. He said if it helped him have a relationship with his son again, he would. He asked her if she thought calling him to say he was going to vote for Referendum 74 might be a good way to reconnect with him. He said that is reason enough for him to support it."
"Our canvasser Mark was able to move someone who had a supporter rating of a 5 (meaning very opposed to the freedom to marry) to move to a 1 (meaning very supportive)! After Mark talked to her about why marriage is important to him, she told him the only remaining concern she had was how much it would cost the government. He reiterated how important marriage was, then talked about how many of his friends would get married - and how much money the wedding ceremonies would likely generate for the economy. She was sold."
"One of our canvassers, Alexis, talked to a man who told her that a few years ago he would have shut the door in her face, but that he recently found out the director of his church choir was gay. The man and choir director have since become good friends and now he is a hugely pro 74. He was glad to hear about the religious protections and to get clarification on which vote was the pro-marriage vote."
"One of our canvassers, Christina, had a very hard-fought full persuasion. She spoke with a woman who told her that she had religious objections. Christina shared that she is Christian and wants to marry her partner. When the voter told her that partnerships have same rights, Christina told a story how her partner's daughter needed pain medications after an accident and, since she didn't have the right documentation, she was unable to authorize it. The conversation went on, and as Christina told her story, the voter she talked to ended up committing to vote to approve Referendum 74."
"Our canvasser Tre went to a door last night and the woman who answered was a huge supporter. She decided she wanted to walk the rest of the doors on her block with him, helping to convince neighbors on our walk list to get on board with Referendum 74.
"Two canvassers talked to voters tonight, Shoshana and Elise, who said they had been called by Washington United for Marriage phone bankers in the past several days, that and those calls got them thinking about things the right way. Both of these people said they are closer now to voting yes, especially after having a follow-up conversation at the door."
"We had a canvasser speak with a woman who was undecided on the referendum throughout an entire conversation, and she ended the talk still undecided. Later that evening, the woman tracked our canvasser down in the neighborhood to tell our canvasser that, after talking to her husband, she had decided to vote to support the referendum."
Read more about the freedom to marry in Washington, find out more about Washington United for Marriage, and learn about all four states where marriage will be on the ballot in November.