Equipped with clipboards, voter fact sheets and a master list of polling places in Boone County, get-out-the-vote canvassers for Faith Voices of Columbia hit the streets on Sunday afternoon to talk to infrequent voters about Tuesday's election.
"The gloomy weather is perfect," Missouri Faith Voices lead organizer Alice Chamberlain said at canvassing training on Sunday, when the temperature was below 50 degrees and a steady drizzle fell throughout the afternoon. "It means people are in their houses waiting for us to come talk to them."
Seven canvassers braved the chill rain to reach out to eligible voters that didn't vote in the last midterm election. While they were on the streets, six other volunteers stayed at the Wilkes Boulevard United Methodist Church to run a phone bank. Before heading out or making calls, Chamberlain trained all the volunteers on how to start conversations with voters.
Missouri Faith Voices is a multifaith organization that is focused on improving the lives of Missouri residents. Their goals are elevating marginalized voices and building shared power to enact change. Missouri Faith Voices has four chapters, including Faith Voices of Columbia.
Faith Voices of Columbia started canvassing and phone banking on Sept. 13. The group has held events every day since Oct. 29, and will continue to volunteer through Election Day. Those interested can sign up to volunteer on Missouri Faith Voices’ online form.
Earlier canvassing efforts by Faith Voices of Columbia had focused on gathering support for Proposition B and Amendment 1, but on Sunday, canvassers focused more on helping unlikely voters make a plan to vote on Tuesday. Chamberlain said people would be more likely to follow through with voting if they had a plan.
Missouri Faith Voices is nonpartisan, and all volunteers were instructed to not tell voters how to vote on other issues or candidates. However, Chamberlain did recommend that canvassers at least have some knowledge of the other ballot items to educate curious voters.
Volunteers needed to find out if people intended to vote on Tuesday, if they knew where their polling place was and if they needed a ride to the vote. Each canvasser and phone bank caller had a stack of ride-share slips for voters to fill out so Faith Voices of Columbia could provide them with transportation on Election Day.
The volunteers also set goals for how many people they would reach Sunday. Each team set a goal of knocking on 60 doors and starting 15 conversations.
Skinner has volunteered as a canvasser multiple times this election season. She said she once ended up speaking with a woman who was distraught about the pressures of her work. Skinner talked to her about how voting "Yes" on Proposition B, which would raise Missouri's minimum wage, could help her situation.
“Helping to engage people around the pain in our lives and how we can take action collectively to make things better is really important," Chamberlain said. "I think faith-based organizing especially and engaging people around core values of dignity and equity is a really powerful force that is needed right now."
Volunteers for phone banking and canvassing are trained to take four steps when starting conversations. First, volunteers introduce and identify themselves as Faith Voices of Columbia participants. Then, they offer information about MedZou, a free health clinic. Chamberlain said by offering a resource first, volunteers will have an easier time talking to the voter about other issues that they may need solutions to. After giving the resource, volunteers ask for support on the two ballot issues and work out a voting plan with the voter.
“I believe if we see a dramatic increase in the number of people who are voting that we can hold elected officials accountable to do something more meaningful,” Chamberlain said.
Boone County polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. You can check your polling location at the Boone County Clerk's website or by calling the office at 573-886-4375. For more information on the candidates and issues you will see on the ballot, check out the Missourian's voter guide.
Supervising editor is Brendan Crowley.