Clocking 100 Homes a Week, Democratic Volunteer Canvasses for Clinton - And Herself

Nov 2, 2016

There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of the ground game is in this presidential election. But who are the people knocking on doors trying to get out the vote?

After we heard from GOP canvassers last week, NHPR's Morning Edition host Rick Ganley spent a recent morning in Goffstown with a volunteer going door to door, trying to get out the vote for Democrats.

  Judi Lanza of Goffstown has been out canvassing for months now, hoping to get Hillary Clinton elected. She’s 55 years old, works as a nurse, and is also running to be a state representative.

We’re on our way to the first house on a list of 31 Goffstown voters Lanza picked up at the Democratic Party headquarters in Manchester.

"I should say there’s not too many places that I haven’t gone this campaign season," Lanza says, laughing. "It’s been a long journey.”

The inside of her car is littered is with candidate fliers; in the back seat, there’s a stack of Lanza’s campaign signs for her statehouse bid.

"I don’t know how my election will turn out. It’s my first time running, but you know, my most important thing is to get Hillary and all our Democrats here in our state elected.”

Lanza volunteered for Clinton during her first presidential run in 2008. Now, she’s back out, knocking on doors in these finals days of the 2016 campaign.

We pull up to the first house: there are Jack O’Lanterns and other signs of fall on the front porch, but no sign of people. The Hillary for President pins on Lanza’s jacket clang as she walks up the empty driveway.

“During the week, they’re mostly not home," Lanza says as we approach the door.

"I think a hard-and-fast rule is you don’t bother anyone during the Patriots game, right?”

"Definitely," she says, laughing. "You always try to make sure you’ve gone beforehand.”

She steps up to the door, knocks, and hopes for the best.

No answer, so Lanza sticks the campaign literature in the door handle; canvassers aren’t legally allowed to put fliers in the mail slot.

She leaves fliers for Clinton and other down-ballot candidates, as well one for her own campaign.

"And I usually put their name here, and just say that I came by introduce myself, and that I hope I can count on your support and vote.”

Back in the car, Lanza pulls out her spreadsheet and marks down the voter wasn’t home.

Canvassers like her aren’t just getting out the vote; they’re also collecting data.

“Somebody will put in the data, on this sheet, it says supporting POTUS, which is of course the president. Supporting the Senate, supporting governor, supporting House. And willing to volunteer: yes, maybe, no, later. Later? We don’t have any more time for later. They need to step up to the plate.”

She comes up empty at a few more houses before someone finally answers the door.

Judi Lanza checks her list of voters as she walks a street in Goffstown.
Credit Michael Brindley

“Hi, my name’s Judi Lanza, how are you?" she says.

"Good, how are you?" the man replies.

And it doesn’t take long to realize this is one voter Lanza is not going to sway.

"Very sorry to see you have a Hillary pin on you," he says.

"OK, so you’re not supporting Hillary," Lanza says. 

“Not at all, not this house. She should be thrown in jail. She shouldn’t be running for any office because if I did what she did, I’d be thrown in jail. And my wife feels the same way.”

The conversation is tense, but ends cordially.

“Is that unusual? Do you hear that a lot?”

"I’ve heard that a couple times, but you know what? I don’t let it bother me," she says.

As we pull away, Lanza explains she was actually here to see how the man’s wife was voting, but she wasn’t home.

"Her name was obviously on your rolls and he said not in the house."

"Right, but I would still have somebody come back because we have not spoken to her."

The state Democratic Party estimates its volunteers have knocked on more than half a million doors across the state this campaign season.

And for Lanza, that means having to find to time to volunteer when she’s not working shifts as a nurse.

"So is it tough to balance work and campaigning?"

"Yeah, it can be. I work 36 hours a week at least. And I work in 12-hour shifts.”

"So how many hours a week do you spend pounding the pavement?"

"Quite a bit. I probably try to go to about 100 homes a week."

By the end of this day, she’s only made contact with a handful of voters, and only one who committed to voting for Clinton. But in swing state like New Hampshire, Lanza says that one vote could make all the difference on Election Day.

“I’m very optimistic. I know it’s Hillary’s turn. It’s time to elect our first female president. It’s going to be a very emotional night and I’m very excited to see a victory.”