The VQ followed up with Liz Sammons '06 after Election Day
When we last spoke, you were just embarking on your journey. Could you fill us in on exactly what happened? Where were you sent? What did you do?
I left Poughkeepsie in late August, headed to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to train as a canvass director for the Democratic National Committee. I joined a team of directors and directors-in-training in that office. We hired, trained and organized teams of canvassers, and went door to door with them each evening. After three weeks we found out that the group that had hired us decided to switch its focus to a get out the vote project with Move On PAC. So at the end of September, I went with my coworkers to Milwaukee to be trained as one of 500 field organizers for voter mobilization work in the swing states. After three days of training, I was sent back to Ann Arbor with four other people (two of whom I’d worked with from the beginning) to build a network of volunteers who were responsible for contacting and re-contacting infrequent voters in their neighborhoods to encourage them to vote for Kerry and Edwards. October and early November in Michigan were a blur of massive meetings, endless hours of recruitment calling, training sessions with precinct teams, afternoons spent lost on back roads I was trying to canvass, semi-sleepless nights, and the some wonderful relationships.
What was the most rewarding part of the experience?
I was honored to work with an astonishing group of volunteers in Washtenaw County, many of whom were seasoned activists and taught me a great deal about taking the long view and building for the future. My favorite moments this fall came when I actually got out of the office and was able to help canvass. I talked with the much-coveted undecided voters we all heard so much about and met—“Nascar dads” and “security moms!” Most of all, it was really inspiring to experience the passion that so many people felt about this election, particularly as it manifested in the dedication of one of my favorite volunteers, Aimee, who was 14 and gravely announced “this will affect the rest of my life” when I asked her why she wanted to become involved.
And, what was most challenging?
One of the most challenging things was the high turnover rate of my coworkers and the limited time and resources that we had to really equip the volunteers for the momentous tasks laid out for them. It was also very demoralizing to watch the group I worked for compromise our progressive values in favor of short-term goals.
Despite the results of the election, will you continue with grassroots political activism? If so, do you know what your next step will be?
Is it too early to start getting out the vote for the Congressional Midterms?
Yes, I’ll absolutely remain involved. I’m still processing this experience, so I can’t tell you specifically what my next step will look like. I’d really like to become more involved with local grassroots movements when I’m back in Poughkeepsie next semester.