The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee launched its “Summer of Resistance and Renewal in Montgomery County” in mid-July, but the canvassing that makes up those efforts began in earnest this past weekend. Those canvassing efforts are aimed at drop-off voters with the hope of ensuring a Gov. Larry Hogan loss in 2018.
“There’s good turnout for general elections, for presidential elections, more of a drop-off with midterms,” said Jackie Coolidge, a precinct official in District 18. “This is going to be a very exciting year leading up to the election.”
Before the canvassing started, the small group of canvassers gathered in the Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center, and one of the organizers, Marie Mapes, posed an important question: “What are the barriers to (drop-off voters) feeling engaged in the Democratic Party?”
“The first time I voted I actually cried voting, but it’s not like that for everyone,” said Fatmata Barrie, an immigrant from Sierra Leone and a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 20.
Barrie said she likes to tell voters about Larry Hogan’s stance on education to show what happens when people don’t vote. “I like to give them a little nugget of info about what’s actually happening,” she said.
Another potential barrier the canvassers hope to overcome is that voters don’t feel like they’re being heard.
“I don’t experience many politicians coming around to ask,’ said Karen Kane, a Silver Spring resident. “A few local ones do but not many.”
“Need to get young people,” said Stephanie Alexander, a 23-year-old who is helping with Danielle Meitiv’s campaign. “Invite them to these conversations and really listen to them.”
The organizers of this event believe it’s important now to listen to voters in order to build up a base before it’s too late.
“This is a time for us to be listening to them,” said Mapes. “Just be their therapist for a minute.”
“We want them to feel like someone is listening to them. That will get them back in the process,” said Scott Goldberg, one of the organizers.
“The goal is to reach out to Democratic votes and get a sense of what’s on their minds and kind of what issues are at the forefront of different neighborhoods,” said Dave Kunes, the state party chair of the MCDCC.
State Sen. Will Smith (D-20) believes that much is at stake in the state level and that 2018 could influence future Democratic initiatives.
“In the state we’ve got elections coming up. We’ve got redistricting coming up. That could mean a number (of) members of Congress to Republicans,” he said.
However, Danielle Meitiv, a candidate for County Council, believes that voting matters on a more local level.
“Voice is even more amplified on a local level,” she said. “A say in schools to potholes.”
The Summer of Resistance and Renewal also offers an opportunity for engagement for those volunteering, although only about 15 people showed up.
“Well, I was looking for opportunities to start actually volunteering,” said Helen Burns.
“I’ve sort of been following local politics to stop complaining and start acting.”
“I was always active. I campaigned for Bernie in the primaries. I campaigned for Hillary in the fall,” said Coolidge. “I just said ‘I gotta do even more. I gotta do even more.’”
According to Mapes and Kunes, the effort is collaborative. The Montgomery County Young Democrats, Progressive MD, and other Democratic clubs are also working on canvassing.
That collaboration is also in part an attempt to heal divisions within the Democratic party. Burns said that she sees a lot of differences within the party on issues such as the Purple Line. Another volunteer said she saw people who weren’t enthusiastic about voting in 2016 because Bernie Sanders was not on the ballot.
“There are certainly drastic differences,” said Burns.