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The State

Canvassing 101

Why knock doors?

The most effective way to motivate a voter to take action, whether contacting their representative, supporting a candidate, or otherwise advocating for our shared values, is to have a one-on-one personal conversation with them. The most effective type of one-on-one conversation is face to face, at their door. 

When we knock on a voter’s door, that person is 6% more likely to take the action we ask of them.

Hearing from an authentic member of their community will always be more effective than a message crafted in Chicago or Washington, D.C. delivered through television or direct mail.

Canvassing 101

Always practice good citizenship and knock with integrity. Follow local laws and regulations. 

Always be courteous and never argue with voters. Do not enter voters’ homes. Do not demonstrate behavior that could be threatening to voters.

Wear comfortable but neat clothing. You’ll be walking outside, but you want to represent your candidate or cause in a professional way.

Keep moving. Knocking on 20 doors an hour will get the team to its goal.

Be enthusiastic! Voters will respond well to a go-getter attitude and a sense of urgency.

Make sure you have all of the materials you need before you start your walk.


Use a friendly knock and make your presence small to appear less intimidating. Consider turning to the side or kneeling to tie your shoe! Stand at least six feet from the door. 

Remember that the person answering the door may be experiencing feelings of GTPOMP (Get This Person Off My Porch!). To combat this – consider using a pattern interrupt to disarm them.

Rules of Engagement

The First Amendment protects political speech, so we do not need permits or permission to canvass neighborhoods for political causes, even when there is signage that claims to prohibit such activity. 

No Trespassing

When an individual house has a No Trespassing sign posted, you may knock on their door or you may record it as “Inaccessible”, but when an entire community has a No Trespassing sign, you should proceed with canvassing. 

No Soliciting

No Soliciting signs do not apply to political canvassers, so you should continue with your canvassing even if there is No Soliciting signage. 

Remember to be courteous and never argumentative with the voters and the individuals you encounter while canvassing.

If you are approached by a security officer or a police officer, be courteous and respectful. You may provide them with your staff organizer’s phone number if they would like to verify with whom you are volunteering.


Always be aware of your surroundings. 

If you are being followed, get in your car and drive to a police station or somewhere safe. Once you are somewhere safe, let your staff organizer know.

Volunteers should knock in pairs or small groups at all times.

All volunteers should have your phone number and the staff organizer’s phone number saved. Check in with them regularly. Use a group text to make volunteers feel valued and comfortable sharing their stories.

Never enter someone’s home.

COVID Compliance

Taking steps to ensure COVID compliance ensures that everyone remains safe and community members feel comfortable speaking with our volunteers. 


Staff organizers and volunteer canvassing hosts should create safe canvassing kits for every canvassing event. These kits should include the following items: 

Before Canvassing

Contact all volunteers who RSVP with an e-mail blast the day before including the instruction to stay home if sick. 

Upon arrival, ensure no volunteers are feeling ill. All volunteers will be encouraged to participate in the campaign in a different manner if they are uncomfortable.

On-site Training

Conduct on-site trainings in open areas while practicing social distancing, staying at least six feet from volunteers at all times. 

Instruct volunteers to maintain social distancing while canvassing, which means knocking on the door and then stepping back at least six feet.

Ask volunteers to leave if they begin to feel sick.

While Canvassing

Volunteers will practice social distancing at the doors and will no longer shake hands or make direct contact with voters. 

Wear your mask!

Staff organizers and volunteer hosts should check in regularly with volunteers to monitor their health and safety.

If No One Answers the Door

Leave your literature and move on. Don’t leave anything in the mailbox (doing so is a violation of federal law!). 

If you see literature from another candidate already on the door, don’t touch it! Continue to lead with integrity and good citizenship.

Extraneous Situations

What if a child answers the door?

Ask if an adult is home! Don’t linger. If you’re not getting anywhere, leave the literature and move along. 

What if your target voter is deceased?

Apologize! Thank the person for their time and let them know the list will be updated. 

What if the voter is already outside or is on their way out?

Acknowledge the situation. A quick “Hey – I see you’re on you’re way out” or “I see you’re working on the yard” goes a long way toward disarming the interaction. After you’ve gotten their attention, hand them your literature and ask your first question. 

What if you get yelled at?

Keep your composure and de-escalate. Say “thank you for your time” and leave.

If the interaction continues, get in your car and leave the area. Let your staff organizer know what happened. 

What if someone asks a question that you don’t know the answer to?

Don’t make up an answer. Politely tell them you are not sure, and direct them to your candidate’s website or collect their email to keep in contact. 

Put It Into Action

Now you are ready to expand your network and act as a leader in your community. Change will come to Illinois, but only if we each work to bring more people into our movement. Sign up here to host a canvass and we’ll follow up to walk you through each step.