Students Canvass in NY-01


This group of College Democrats went door to door to encourage people to vote blue. (Mike Fissinger/The Fordham Ram)

By Helen Stevenson

On Saturday, Nov. 3, the College Democrats partnered with Swing Left to canvass for candidate Perry Gershon, who ran to represent New York’s first district in congress (NY-01). Gershon ran against Congressman Lee Zeldin, a Republican candidate whose reelection bid was endorsed by President Donald Trump. Despite the College Democrats’ support for Gershon, Zeldin took the district on Tuesday.

Canvassing is the act of going door-to-door to advocate for a political candidate to energize voter support. It is a tactic that the College Prior to the election, Democrats said this could have a significant effect on the 2018 midterm election as they looked to flip enough seats in congressional, state and local elections to ensure a Democratic Congress, commonly called a blue wave.

“This is a busy time for everyone, but nothing is more important than this,” the executive board wrote in an email, encouraging students to join. “Knocking on doors can swing an election by an average of eight points. It’s one day of your life, but could make the difference in this election #noexcuses.”

According to his campaign website, Perry Gershon ran on a platform of high-paying jobs, gun violence prevention, affordable health care, high-quality education, clean air and water, social security and Medicare, enhanced veterans’ benefits and an end to America’s wars.

Sophia MacMaster, FCRH ’19, president of the College Democrats, said it was important for the club to support Gershon’s platform and emphasize the importance of his election.

“Some issues that are important to me are health care, women’s rights, especially reproductive rights, and protecting the environment,” she said. “It was really important to us that we got out and canvassed for Democrats because this election is so important…as a club, we are trying to be more active and make a real difference.”

Alana Murphy, FCRH ’21, secretary for the College Democrats, said canvassing was part of an ongoing effort to enact change nationwide.

“Since [the 2016 election], it’s been all about keeping the momentum for this week,” she said. “This is probably the most important election of our lifetime and as Democrats we really had to give it our all if we want to see a change.”

Michael Fissinger, FCRH ’21, vice president of the College Democrats, agreed on the importance of the midterm elections considering the Republican control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches prior to the election.

“Simply put, the livelihood and well being of millions of Americans, especially marginalized communities, are on the ballot on Nov. 6, and voting for Democrats is the best way to ensure that livelihood and well being,” he said.

MacMaster said the club saw significant student turnout to canvass for the Long Island candidate.

“I believe we had 42 volunteers from Fordham, which was amazing,” she said. “I was so impressed by all the students that were willing to give up their Saturday to go talk to voters.

The bus from Walsh Gate to Gershon HQ in Setauket, NY, organized by Swing Left, departed at 10 a.m. and returned to campus at around 8:15 p.m. The bus was open to all volunteers and participation cost five dollars, including training, transportation and snacks.

When the group arrived at around 11:45 a.m., they were trained on how to canvas and what to say when people opened their doors. The volunteers heard from the candidate Perry Gershon and special guest comedian Ilana Glazer, and then went out to their “turf,” or section of the neighborhood.

“Everyone was in pairs and got assigned two lists. Each list has somewhere between 35-55 houses, depending on how dense the turf is,” said MacMaster. “We were talking to supporters of Gershon and reminding them to vote, giving them information about their polling places and times polls were open, and making a plan to vote with them.”

Fissinger said that canvassing was a great experience that he recommends to anyone interested in political campaigns.

“Something like that—knocking on strangers’ doors and talking to them—can be really intimidating at first, but I think everyone did a great job getting comfortable with the process,” he said. “I really commend everyone who stepped outside of their comfort zone to do such essential work in the last weekend before the election.”

Murphy said that although volunteering requires a lot of effort, doing it makes her feel like she is playing her part when it comes to helping the Democratic party.

“Canvassing requires a lot of effort, especially when you’re doing multiple shifts back to back like we were, but it is so rewarding,” she said. “Being surrounded by friends and just people who want to make a difference in general is a really empowering feeling.”

Fissinger said people responded enthusiastically for the most part. Because the effort was to “get out the vote,” they were mostly visiting Democratic voters who had already planned on voting for Gershon.

“A lot of them not only planned on voting for Perry Gershon but also had a plan as to when and how they were going to the polls,” he said. “Seeing that enthusiasm in an important swing district filled me with hope.”