Prior to Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary in New Hampshire, several Yale students traveled north to campaign for their chosen candidates and encourage residents to go to the polls.
Over the last few weeks, these students — most of whom are members of Yale Students for Hillary and Yale Students for Bernie — drove up to New Hampshire on weekends to knock on voters’ doors. In addition to their trips out-of-state, student volunteers also worked locally to garner support for their candidates, participating in events from phone banking to online photo campaigns to hosting speakers on campus. Students who canvassed for Republican candidates could not be reached for comment.
“No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s an incredibly exciting time,” said Adam Gerard ’17, who is vice president of Yale Students for Hillary and traveled to New Hampshire this past weekend. “The margins are razor-thin and I think when it comes down to it, being on the ground and being on the campaign is the most exciting way to get involved at this stage in the game.”
Even now that the primary in New Hampshire has finished, students said they will continue to actively campaign on their candidates’ behalf.
For the past two weekends, members of Yale Students for Hillary have gone to Keene, New Hampshire, where they went door to door encouraging residents to vote for Clinton. They also helped voters make a plan for going to the polls.
According to Delaney Herndon ’17, co-president of Yale Students for Hillary, making a plan to vote has been shown to double turnout at the polls.
“We try to gauge who they’re going to support,” Herndon said. “If it’s Clinton, we make a plan with them about how to get to the polls. If they’re undecided, we try to persuade them to vote for her. If they’ve made up their mind on someone else, we say ‘Thanks for your time’ and hang up.”
Eight volunteers from Yale Students for Bernie traveled to Nashua, New Hampshire this past weekend to get out the vote.
“Get out the vote” efforts are different from campaigning in the sense that volunteers are mostly concerned with reminding voters of when and how to get to the polls, regardless of who they will be voting for, according to Matthew Massie ’17, co-founder of Yale Students for Bernie.
“When we were going door to door in Nashua, we identified ourselves as volunteers for Sanders, but our only question was whether they intended to vote on Election Day,” Massie said.
Josh Hochman ’18, who canvassed for the Clinton campaign, discussed the difficulties of going door-to-door. He said that often, voters are not home, so volunteers are unable to make contact.
But students said it was still rewarding to partake in the historic campaign.
“The experience is worth it when you’re able to talk to even just one voter,” Hochman said. “I was struck by the depth of the conversations I had with New Hampshire residents about health care, income inequality and climate change, for instance, and it was so rewarding to experience the presidential campaign off of the debate stage.”
Volunteers for both groups will continue their work after the primaries with canvassing excursions, phone banking events and social media campaigns to build grass-roots support.
Massie said since Connecticut’s primary is not until the end of April, most Yale students will have already voted in their home states. Accordingly, many Sanders canvassers will shift to the New Haven for Bernie Sanders team, rather than the Yale-specific team, to focus on voter turnout in the city, he said.
Yale Students for Hillary will continue to support Clinton’s bid for the presidency in upcoming primaries, likely through phone banking for faraway states such as Nevada and South Carolina, and through on-the-ground efforts in closer states such as Massachusetts, Herndon said.
Herndon noted that canvassing is a serious time commitment, adding that events like phone banking take up the most time in her schedule.
“I feel like I’m busy all the time, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Herndon said. “I don’t regret the time sacrifice, but it definitely is one.”
The Nevada Democratic caucuses and the South Carolina Republican primary will both take place on Feb. 20.