Evangelia Recaps Her Experiences Canvassing For Equality Maine

Everybody has their own thoughts about political canvassing. Some people love it, while others hate it. Political canvassing has played an important role in my life and my political development, so I absolutely love it. 


Political canvassing is a job that involves going door to door and encouraging people to vote for a particular candidate or donate to a political committee or campaign. Political canvassers are sometimes paid, and sometimes volunteers. They work at all times of the year but are especially active during election seasons. As a matter of fact, you may have even seen political canvassers walk around recently since it is a political primary season!


When I was a political canvasser, I worked over the summer for a political action committee (P.A.C.) and a non-profit organization called Equality Maine. To this day, Equality Maine remains the largest advocate for LGBTQ+ people in the state of Maine. A lot of the P.A.C. 's work included lobbying for pro-LGBTQ+ legislation and providing resources for LGBTQ+ people within the state.


As a canvasser at Equality Maine, my job was to go door-to-door and raise money for one of Equality Maine’s youth programs, the New Leaders Project -- a summer camp where LGBTQ+ youth could learn leadership skills.  Going door-to-door and talking face to face with people about controversial subjects like LGBTQ+ rights was hard at times, but it gave me the opportunity to connect with run-of-the-mill voters and citizens. It also helped me to engage in a form of bipartisan political work, because a lot of our donors spanned across several political parties. 


As a matter of fact, one of my most positive experiences occurred when I knocked on a Republican’s door. Moments after I arrived at his house, he pulled into his driveway in a convertible from the 1960s. His car was fancy and expensive, so I had a gut feeling he would donate a lot of money to the program. The moment he pulled into the driveway, we started to discuss politics. He told me he identified as a constitutional conservative, and that because the constitution allows LGBTQ+ people to live freely, he supported LGBTQ+ rights. With that, I explained to him that Equality Maine’s goal was to uplift LGBTQ+ people, especially with our programs like the New Leaders’ Project, a camp where LGBTQ+ youth could freely express themselves. Soon after, he donated $250 to Equality Maine. This interaction taught me just how valuable bipartisanship could be. 


Another extremely positive experience I had while canvassing involved receiving my first donation of $500 -- the highest financial goal canvassers were expected to meet. The first time I earned a donation of $500 was when I knocked on a door in Cape Elizabeth, a coastal community in southern Maine. The woman who answered the door was very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community and very supportive of the New Leaders Project. She had also donated to other local LGBTQ+ organizations in the past, including Out Maine. This donor was super passionate and invested in our cause, and I felt euphoric about meeting one of the highest goals we had!


Of course, my positive experiences as an Equality Maine Canvasser did not end there. Within my first month of working there, I got to march in Portland Pride to collect donations and represent Equality Maine! This was one of the most exciting moments of both my life and career at Equality Maine. There were thousands of supportive people around me, and many of them tossed their change into my donation bucket. Everyone wore their brightest colors and their most flamboyant makeup. All of Portland looked like a walking rainbow! It was a surreal experience. Before then, I had never seen support like this, especially in my rural town and high school just twenty minutes away. Not only did I feel a sense of love, acceptance, and support for my community, but I felt a sense of celebration for my community. I would never, ever trade this experience with Equality Maine for the world.


With all these positive experiences in mind, it is important to note that my job wasn’t always very sunny and delightful. Unfortunately, sometimes I had really bad days at my job. Dealing with people, especially in such an up-close and personal manner could be very difficult. Sometimes, people got irrationally angry. Other times, they would keep you at your house for long periods of time without donating a single cent. 


For example, there was a time when I canvassed a small neighborhood just north of Portland. Not a lot of people were home, so I didn’t collect a lot of donations. I was already upset about this, so I was hoping for something good to happen when I knocked on my next door. I quickly learned that my hopes were too high. I walked up to a big, grey house whose residents were listed as registered Republicans. I knocked on their door, and a man who wasn’t listed on the voter registry answered. I asked him if he supported safer schools for LGBTQ+ youth, and he responded with a half-hour long tangent about how pro-LGBTQ+ legislations were detrimental to parental rights, and how he felt like he couldn’t trust survivors of hate crimes after Jussie Smollett, a famous actor, lied about being the victim of a hate crime. This man also asked me how I felt about transgender individuals getting abortions, which was strange because I wasn’t canvassing for or against abortion. He wasted my time ranting to me and was extremely rude.


Additionally, there was a time when I asked a woman if she supported safer schools for LGBTQ+ youth, to which she responded by saying something like, “I think they’re safe enough.” This was after I had shared statistics with her about LGBTQ+ youth being bullied and abused in schools disproportionately. Her remarks were rude and disrespectful, but I had to move on from that experience. 


Even though I had some very negative experiences as a canvasser, I still learned a lot from my experiences. I learned how to work more effectively as a canvasser for a non-profit, and how to better communicate with others. I also made lasting friendships and career connections!  Canvassing, especially for Equality Maine, was a wonderful opportunity -- one that I would recommend to anyone interested in politics or nonprofit work.