Canvassing for Precinct Committeemen

What is canvassing, and how does it differ from other methods of voter contact?

CanvassingCanvassing is defined as door to door (and face to face) voter contact. It is not the same as "blitzing" or a "literature drop". Hanging a bag of campaign material on a doorknob is far less effective than a real conversation. To be an effective precinct committeeman, you must meet your voters. It's important to listen as well as talk.

If your precinct is partly or mostly un-walkable, you can make phone calls and send postcards. Talk to your District Chair for help.

Rarely, you will encounter a voter who does not appreciate your visit. Don't argue, just apologize and leave quickly. Door slams are not the end of the world. You are not soliciting, and you don't need a license to canvass.

What are the goals of canvassing?

  1. Voter ID
    • Party preference (can't always trust primary voting history)
    • How likely to vote
  2. Persuasion
    • Elevator speech
    • Hand out literature
  3. Up-sell
    • Yard sign placement
    • Volunteer recruitment
  4. Get canvass results into VoteBuilder
  5. GOTV

How to canvass

  1. Intro
    • Introduce yourself – who are you?
    • Hand out literature during intro
    • Verify who you are talking to
  2. Deliver Message
    • Be concise, be quick
    • Hook the voter
    • DO NOT engage in debate with voter
  3. Disengage – Can I Count On Your Vote?
    • 90 seconds at the door
    • Goal – 20 doors an hour (that's a really fast pace, even assuming 50% of doors knocked get no answer)
  4. Follow up
    • Contact the "not home" voters with a return visit, postcard or phone call
    • Forward voter questions to the candidate(s)
    • VoteBuilder data entry (if you didn't use MiniVAN).

Planning your canvassing activities

  1. When do I start canvassing?
    • As early as possible!
    • Need time to follow up with voters who were not home
    • Set a goal of talking to every voter in your precinct twice during an election cycle
  2. What are the best times to canvass?
    • Try to find the times that people are more likely to be home. It varies a bit depending on time of year and the weather, but these guidelines are a good place to start.
    • Monday – Thursday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
    • Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
    • Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  3. Scheduling and logistics
    • Work backward from start of early voting to determine how many available hours you have to canvass
    • Be realistic with your pace and availability
    • Plan for "rainouts" and other missed opportunities
    • Create walk lists in advance and load them to MiniVAN and/or print them
    • Make sure you have all necessary supplies (pens, clipboards and literature, etc.)
  4. Teamwork with a candidate
    • Teams of 3 are the most efficient, using the "ping-pong" method to maximize the candidate's face time with voters.
    • Plan canvassing routes to minimize backtracking
    • Take short breaks every 60-90 minutes; stay hydrated
    • Share feedback with candidate and adjust technique or message if necessary


The Democratic Party of McHenry County