By Andrea Lum, Ann Daniels, and Ted Lam
Action deadline: November 3, 2020 –
Road trip! Indivisible East Bay’ers Ted Lam, Alissa McLean and Andrea Lum headed out on January 12-14, 2020 to canvass in Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona. While each of us had canvassed a few times in California in 2018 for T.J. Cox, Jessica Morse and Josh Harder, we wouldn’t have called ourselves experienced or even super comfortable talking to strangers about politics. But we were all excited to register people to vote with Flip the West (FtW – get it?) and we won’t deny it, the trip to Sedona was an incentive.
What YOU Can Do:
- Canvass among the cactus: Our trip was incredibly rewarding, even for the introverts among us! If you picture yourself in Arizona, here are the FTW dates to make your own road trip:
- February 8-14
- March 28-April 12
- April 25-May 3
- May 16-24
- Can you phonebank for Phoenix? Join us on Sunday, February 9, from 1-4 PM in El Cerrito to learn the how-to’s! RSVP here.
For information on postcarding, phonebanking, or canvassing, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, on to our tales from Arizona:
Our group was lucky to work with wonderful Flip the West canvassing organizer, Ruth Schoenbach. We followed her lead to stay at the Grand Canyon University Hotel (more about their interesting history here) which was $83 a night and close to our canvassing areas. Having a restaurant on site with a bar was a big plus at the end of the day.
About 40 of us, including volunteers from Indivisible Yolo and other Bay Area resistance groups as well as IEB, gathered on Monday morning at the Phoenix Marketplace for our marching orders. Richard from Field Team 6 gave us the lowdown and materials, including clipboards with voter registration forms and a large REGISTER TO VOTE sign on the back, anti-T**** stickers, and small cards with important dates. Richard told us that wearing the anti-T stickers would be useful to discern Democrats or Democratic-aligned folks, which proved to be very true. A hint if you’re canvassing – people LOVE stickers! We also got quick facts about incumbent Republican senator Martha McSally which came in handy during our conversations with voters – especially when comparing her to Democratic hopeful Captain Mark Kelly, astronaut and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, who is running what could be a close race.
Most teams of four headed out to strip malls, Walmarts, or the fantastic Latin American chain grocery store Ranch Market. We three IEBers plus Ruth first hit up a Walmart, where we had decent success. Andrea talked to a young man initially dubious about the value of voting until she mentioned that legalizing marijuana was going to be on the ballot in November. Alissa registered a young woman who took time to fill out the paperwork even though she was on her way to work at the Walmart. Ted talked to a woman who gladly took anti-T stickers for herself and her daughter to wear at dinner with her Trump supporter husband. They had a good 10-minute conversation on how important it was to vote in November.
We were thankful that Ruth spoke Spanish; she helped us connect with several people interested in what we were doing.
Once we felt we’d reached as many folks as possible (and after a security guard politely asked us to leave – pro tip, don’t stand by the doorway of a store if you haven’t gotten permission), we headed to Los Altos Ranch Market for a great lunch of freshly made Mexican food and canvassing; then to another strip mall. Andrea chatted with a woman outside the Dollar Tree who was despairing over her daughter who was inclined to vote for T****. She described bringing her son into the ballot booth with her when she voted for Obama back in 2008 and how she wanted to impress on him how important it was that he would be the first black man elected president of the United States. Ted approached a woman sitting in the back of her SUV with the tailgate up; after her two cute little dogs jumped down and tried to lick Ted to death, he asked if she was registered to vote in Arizona at her current address. She took a few moments and replied “Yes. I had to think a bit because I’ve been living in my car for a bit now.” He realized how hard but important it was for that woman to vote, if she has a mailing address even though she doesn’t have a residence.
One of the most exciting parts of our time in Phoenix was meeting Captain Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords at a Planned Parenthood Action Fund event. Canvassers were invited to a small meet and greet sponsored by PPAF and the Arizona social justice organization LUCHA. Kelly, the likely Democratic nominee for the senate race against incumbent Senator Martha McSally, spoke to an enthralled audience about the need for clean water, action against climate change, data driven decisions and ensuring a woman’s right to choose. Ted shared a moment with Kelly about their shared military connection, and Alissa gave a quick rundown on the mood on Phoenix streets. The evening motivated us as we headed out for our final day canvassing in Sedona.
Starting out bright and early, passing the world’s largest Kokopelli, the three IEB’ers headed north to Sedona’s beautiful red scenery. The geography changed dramatically to high desert country and we bundled up with hats and scarves before setting out to canvass. While Sedona is part of a Democratic district, Yavapai County has gone red in the last two presidential elections. Andrea spoke to a woman in the Safeway parking lot who revealed her concern over the impeachment trial and the importance of staying involved. While walking away, she turned back to Andrea and exclaimed “You know? I think you made my day!” In the same parking lot, Alissa waved her clipboard to a young man walking by. After seeing the large “Register to Vote” sticker, he remarked, “I guess I should, right?” In just a short amount of time, three new Democrats were registered to vote.
We ended our visit to Sedona with a visit to Hilltop Deli, where we were helped by Scott, a non-resident born in Uruguay to Orthodox Jewish parents. Scott told us how much he wished he could vote – we left him with a sticker and a big hug.
All in all: talking to people outside of the strip malls, especially in Phoenix, was a valuable experience we highly recommend. We definitely spoke to people we normally would not connect with, which was important. And of course – important for any road trip – great food, great scenery, and great company! Thank you, Arizona and Flip the West for giving us the opportunity to have important conversations with so many great people. We’ll be back later in the year with reinforcements!
Andrea Lum works in higher education by day and as the Volunteer Coordinator for IEB by night.
Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.
Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.