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McCallum: Voter Indecision

You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of the issues and deep divisions surrounding this presidential race. And many voters are dissatisfied with both major candidates, but I consider voting a civic responsibility, so this election season, I was compelled to take action. In August, I stood with my candidate running for state representative in front of the local polling place. In sweltering sun, I held a sign and waved at passing cars. Most voters hurried inside to cast a ballot that had already been decided, so I didn’t think I’d made a difference, but I’d shown my support and left feeling good about having done something.

In September, I attended an open house in a private home that gave locals an opportunity to meet party candidates in Windsor County races. But apart from the candidates themselves, hardly anyone came. Our small like-minded group ate hors d’oeuvres and chatted. It was a valiant political, social and culinary effort, with not much bang for the buck. We had a lovely time then went home - and no voters’ hearts and minds had been changed.

Then I volunteered with a friend to knock on doors in New Hampshire for the presidential candidate I support. The battleground state is rife with political activity to win over the undecided who mistrust both candidates. While New Hampshire has only four electoral votes compared with Florida’s twenty-nine - the largest swing state - every vote counts.

Our assignment was to knock on doors of specific voters designated as undecided. That day, almost everyone on the list was out, but the few who did open their doors listened respectfully before declaring they didn’t like either candidate but “would never vote for that one.” Often, that was our candidate. And yet, face-to-face conversation on porches raised some thorny issues and provoked re-examination of strongly held beliefs, without yelling, insult or bluster.

If someone asked why we’d crossed the Connecticut River from Vermont to stump in their state, we said, “Conviction,” and ticked off the reasons why we held it. They listened, and at times I felt a delicate lean away from the column marked Undecided.

I like to think when they enter the voting booth on November 8th, they may recall two committed Vermonters who met them where they stood, and helped dispel their indecision.

Mary McCallum is a freelance writer and former prison librarian who now works with Vermont elders.
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