Count your steps, count your votes. 

Don’t leave votes on the table and knock those doors.

When it comes to drumming up support and getting supporters to vote door knocking is one of the best things a candidate can do for their campaign. The impact of a candidate personally knock on someone’s door can’t be replaced by television, digital, mail, and text message advertising

Deciding to run for office means making a choice which requires a lot of leg work—literally. Campaigns have been won simply because candidates committed to knocking doors full-time for the duration of the campaign. Conversely, being too good for doors, not committing to knock them, or doubting their impact has left a potential winner to come up short.

Of course, the smaller the district the easier it is to knock every door. But that’s where other campaign advertising comes into play. There’s more than one way to reach a voter, but the candidate isn’t placing ads so they should be knocking doors. 

Candidates will always get better reception than family members, volunteers, or campaign workers, but here are some basic guidelines to help make a good impression and motivate voters to support you and most importantly, vote.

1. Approaching Doors 

Mind any plants or items decorating the front porch. If someone stomped up to your door and knocked around plants, decor, or deliveries you probably wouldn’t be inclined to talk to them. 

Knock or ring the doorbell, then take two or three steps back. This helps you appear non-threatening and puts distance between you and any aggressive pets.

Holding up a pushcard or something else with your campaign logo and smiling while you wait for the door to open is a great practice. And something you might want to practice, a forced smile is noticeable. 

2. Dressing for Success

Branding is essential. Wear any campaign shirts, pullovers, hats or other branding are a great way to signal that you’re with a campaign. Sneakers and shorts are acceptable and most voters understand, especially if you’re out walking in the Texas heat.

Sweating might be inevitable, but you should make sure you are at least presentable. Imagine if you were headed to a child’s ball game. 

This might be the most basic thing we share today, but make sure your hair and/or beard are trimmed, fingernails are clean, and basic hygiene is attended to. Voters will notice. 

3. Where to?

The idea of going to a neighborhood and knocking every door is an easy trap to fall into. But even the most dedicated candidate simply will not have the time. Less than half of eligible voters typically register to vote, much less actually turnout in any given election. Their doors will take up time and yield little results, best to target your approach. 

We recommend a voter file like the ones provided by our Data Team here at Murphy Nasica. They can be broken down into primary voters, independents, persuadable individuals, and just about any mix that makes sense for your campaign’s needs.  Knowing your target helps your conversation at the door, guides messaging, and creates success

Things can get more complicated if you have a mixed household where the spouse and/or children vote differently. Luckily, a voter file can still tell you this and ensure you are reasonably prepared when you approach a door.

4. Not after dark, please

Knocking most days from about 10am until 7pm or sunset (whichever comes first) is usually good practice. Waiting a few hours after dawn gives people time to get their day started. Though you are legally permitted in Texas to knock until 8pm, it’s a time when most voters are winding down, especially if they are elderly or have small children who need to be put to bed.

Holidays are a special exception and if a particular holiday is observed in your area, it’s important to be sensitive to that. Many holidays like Easter, Veterans Day, and Jewish feasts tend to happen during campaign season. Fourth of July and Memorial Day are also not the best times to be out door knocking.

Weekends are usually the best time to knock doors, but knocking before noon or one on Sundays is sometimes taboo in religious communities. 

Ultimately, a great practice is to think of if someone knocking on your door at a particular time would be frustrating. No one wants to open the door to a campaign before their morning coffee has even brewed. 

5. The not so nice reception

Not everyone is excited for the opportunity to talk about the races in their area. It’s inevitable a door knocker may interrupt families at dinner, ring a doorbell that woke a sleeping baby, and many other unforeseeable circumstances. Most people are friendly and will still listen to your message if you offer a sincere apology. 

If they ask (or perhaps even demand) that you leave, we do recommend you do. Sometimes, they will still want to take your pushcard or campaign literature and this is a positive sign. It’s important to remember you can’t win them all and trying to force the issue is not likely to help.

Unfortunately, sometimes there will be voters who want to argue a particular party stance. Occasionally, you might run into a friend or family member of your opponent.

Avoid arguing with voters, especially on their own doorstep. Be calm and courteous. If they bring up particular attacks you are prepared for, respond in a polite manner. 

It’s important to remember that “I don’t have an answer for you right now” is also always an acceptable response. Don’t get dragged into arguments with voters who are strongly partisan, or who are just trying to take up your time. It’s important to remember that while you should value each conversation and each voter’s time, one way to do this is to understand there are always more voters who want to hear from you. Spending twenty minutes at one door arguing with someone unlikely to vote for you means multiple voters who are likely to vote for you won’t hear from you.

6. “No soliciting”

Political activity is not considered “soliciting” because it is not for the sake of commerce and is protected under the First Amendment. However, not all residents will be aware of this.

Some people will still be upset regardless of whether they had a “no soliciting” sign or not. However, since meeting a candidate is such an unusual experience for most people they’re often still willing to speak with you

7. Make it fun, bring someone!

It is helpful for candidates to have a “handler” when out door knocking. This can be a spouse, friend, campaign volunteer, or campaign employee. 

This person’s job is mainly to track time. Most candidates enjoy speaking with people and most people have never gotten the chance to voice their concerns to a candidate. A handler can help keep things moving along and step into a conversation when things start going too long.

A handler can also be responsible for voter contact info if someone asks a question that requires a follow-up. 

You’ve got this! 

Like most things, the best way to get better at door knocking is practice. The more you do it, the better at it you’ll become. 

Meeting and speaking with voters is a great way to become more acquainted with the community. It can help the campaign to find some great insights on the dominant concerns, overall community attitude, and of course we love how it helps to bring home the win!

So get out there, knock some doors, and win that race. 

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