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Pictured: Tibria (center with sign) takes a flick with fellow Bernie Sanders supporters.


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What I Learned Canvassing for Bernie Sanders in South Carolina

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I woke up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, ready to start my day. However, what I failed to remember was that I had committed to canvassing (getting out the vote) for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in South Carolina.

My sister dragged me out of the house, drove to a deserted car garage, and then we hopped into a car with three strangers — Cinthia, Jacob, and Jessica — ready to make a three-hour journey to South Carolina for Bernie.

I reluctantly sat in the back seat, shoved uncomfortably into the door by two perfect strangers. I sat in a pool of annoyance as I faded in and out of sleep, as I had been woken up at an indecorous hour.

However, my interest piqued when they began speaking of the Democratic candidate’s potential to take the current president, Donald Trump, out of office. As we drove through South Carolina we passed everything from cows living on half-built ranches, to trailer park homes and million-dollar mansions. This sight reminded me of the reason I had left my home that morning.

Once we had finally made it to our starting point, I was daunted by the number of participants that had shown up (around 75). I also realized that most of the people canvassing that day were young — the oldest person participating being no older than 35. Why were so many young people so passionate about this primary?

I am not a very experienced canvasser. South Carolina was my second time participating in canvassing. However, I decided to participate this time around because I had an opportunity to help Sanders, a candidate I believe in, get a step closer to becoming president.

My team of five was assigned to visit 150 residences. We initially drove to the area/neighborhood in which we would be canvassing. Then, it was all on foot from there. My small group was further split into teams of two and three. The team I was placed into included my new friend Jacob, my sister Tibon, and me.

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For the first two hours, we trudged through unfamiliar suburbs to knock on strangers’ doors to encourage them to vote that day, even if it was not for our own candidate. A few doors were not opened for us, be it that the residents were not home or simply didn’t want to converse with strangers. When we did get the chance to speak with people, the interactions were usually pleasant.

The Man With 1 Million Jobs

However, as the day progressed and we visited more homes, it became disturbingly apparent that quite a large sum of people didn’t know that it was South Carolina’s presidential primary. And the majority who were aware seemed reluctant or impartial to the importance of the election, as well as the impact they could make to the country’s future.

Still, I felt proud and hopeful when I got the chance to speak with individuals who were ecstatic about voting, no matter if they were Sanders, Buttigieg or Trump supporters. I was just happy they were aware of the day’s importance.

The day gave me insights into the way many voters live, as well as their thought process about choosing the candidates they did. I spoke with more than 100 people, but a few piqued my interest.

It was reaching mid-day when we pulled up to a small townhouse complex. There I encountered a small ,elderly woman and attempted to encourage her to go out and vote, but she had already done so. For data entry purposes, I asked who she had voted for. Her response troubles me to this day: “Oh, I’m not sure.”

…What?!

I asked the woman to clarify because I did not want to believe what I had just heard. She then ran through the process of voting that morning and told me she was completely clueless as to who any of the candidates were, and decided to pick a name at random. In simple terms, I was mortified, and I was more furious that she cared so little about a choice that could affect her quality of life.

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“What?! It’s Voting Day?!” Another man in his mid-30s exclaimed when we spoke to him. We eventually convinced him to vote.

The author (far right) on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, with her fellow Bernie Sanders volunteers just before they headed out to canvass in South Carolina.

Later, my group and I encountered a Pete Buttigieg supporter. She was a regal blond woman living in a beautiful cottage with several pets. When she answered the door, she spoke to us through a glass screen door and was wearing a Buttigieg 2020 T-shirt. She emphatically explained that she had voted for him earlier that day. She was the only Buttigieg supporter we encountered.

And then there was the man with one million jobs. The cheery 30-year-old man greeted my team happily when we knocked on his front door. He was ecstatic to see that we had been canvassing for Sanders in the South Carolina primary. However, he was still on the fence of two candidates: Bernie or Joe Biden. My group encouraged him to speak more candidly about why he was unsure. He explained to us that he adored Bernie’s education plan but felt as though his healthcare plan wasn’t very impressive.

I’m sorry, what?

My group and I were a bit taken aback when we heard this. We then informed the man of Sanders’ many years of commitment to a working healthcare policy and of his benefits for teachers.

This was relevant to him because he was extremely passionate about teaching and directing a high school band. However, because of lacking teacher salary and benefits, he had to take on several other jobs, including bartending, composing, catering, sound director, substitute teaching, etc.

He was ecstatic when he found out that if Sanders gets into office, he could exclusively pursue his passion for directing his band and composing music.

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It was 7 p.m. when we decided to go home. We stopped by the organizer’s house to say goodbye and thank him for planning the day for us. As we were thanking him for all of his hard work, I mildly interrupted the tender conversation to ask him to take a photo of my group to remember my first time canvassing on voting day.

Reflecting On The Day

As we drove back to Georgia, I began to reflect on the events of the day and the people I had met. I realize the day allowed me to gain some perspective and understanding of why voters support the people they do — not only from the residents of South Carolina we spoke with but also from the group I had traveled with all the way from Georgia.

It was truly a privilege, and I recommend that any young person interested in politics try canvassing. It allows you to interact with people who partake in the same interests as you as well as let you see first hand what’s going through people’s minds when they are making decisions that can affect you.

In the car, we joked about funny things that happened that day and spoke about what we hope to see happen with the Sanders campaign.

Speaking to his supporters that day gave our group hope that Sanders could really get into office and even strengthened our belief in him and everything he stands for.


SAVE THE DATE! 

VOX-a-Palooza

Sat. May 9, 2020, 12:30 pm at the Woodruff Arts Center

Come celebrate with us as we showcase the VOX Investigates: Youth Activism Revolution print edition and multimedia produced this semester. The event will also include poetry from Atlanta Word Works and teen performances from our partners at The Alliance Theater and Moving in the Spirit

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