Student door knockers say success can be just one changed mind

A voter fills out a ballot at a voting station on Washington Street. Photo by Caitlin Faulds/BU News Service

By Sasha Ray
Boston University News Service

BOSTON – It took shoe leather and nerve, but a group of Boston University students pounded the pavement on the streets of Allston and Brighton Tuesday evening, giving a final door-to-door push for then-mayoral candidate Michelle Wu. 

​​Mayoral prospect and Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu’s final canvassing event, “BU for Wu,” took place on West Campus Tuesday evening, organized and hosted by political science major Caroline Olesky, a senior and organizing intern for Wu’s campaign. 

“I’ve always been involved in local politics, even when I was in high school, I worked for my local government,” said Olesky, originally from Mill Valley, California. “Genuinely, that is where change happens.”

In her role, Olesky has been responsible for voter outreach, volunteer recruitment, and, of course, event organization. Students who are registered in their home states and ineligible to vote in Boston had the option to take to the streets, ensuring eligible voters had cast their ballots. However, most residents who received in-person reminders had already voted Tuesday or voted by mail last month. 

Brighton resident Robson Servare, 57, had gone to the polls with his college-age daughter to vote for Michelle Wu earlier that day. 

“We’ve been following her for three years,” Servare said. “I think she will be a very good mayor.” 

To canvassers, one answered door was enough to satisfy their hopes for voting turnout.

“The one person we talked to said they got out and voted, and are at least engaged and excited about it,” said Sean Waddington, a freshman from Rochester, New York, studying political science. “We’re not sure who the vote was for, but it’s good to be politically engaged.” 

Hessann Farooqi, a senior economics student from Colorado Springs, found both enjoyment and purpose in the political endeavor. Farooqi has canvassed before for different political campaigns.

“Canvassing is fun because you get to be out, breathe the fresh air, talk to a lot of different people, and have great conversations with them about what’s going on in their lives and what they need,” said Farooqi. “People are a little bit more willing to talk when you’re there in person, it’s always great to learn about them, and their lives.” 

Events like Tuesday’s, Farooqi said, are rewarding when an undecided voter, or nonvoter, is led to support the candidate being promoted door to door. 

“It’s tough, and it doesn’t happen very frequently, especially this close to an election,” Farooqi said. “People generally know who they’re supporting, but that really reminds you that these elections are not just won by who can run the best TV ad or who has the best debate moment. It’s also who has the best community organizing strategy. That’s what canvassers are integral to.”

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