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Elise Brown is a senior at West Linn High School.

Since May, I have spent hours knocking on doors and talking to voters. You may have seen me at your house, armed with a clipboard and a smile. It’s how I try to impact local politics. I can’t vote until next year, but I still care about the decisions our leaders make. As such, I care about the decisions you, the voters make when you choose who those leaders are.

As you fill out your ballots, ensure that you know who’d best represent you. Ideally, have a conversation with the candidates. Campaigns are wonderfully accessible in the digital age. Take advantage of this. Understand their plans. Know them as people. Ask questions and persist until you get answers.

I do this myself when deciding who to volunteer with. For example, in our district’s state House election, I chose to donate my time Carl Hosticka. I communicated with him and his opponent, I researched their positions and, in the end, I decided that I wanted to help him win. It’s been a great experience. I’ve been hearing the concerns my neighbors have, and I’ve been hearing all the different solutions being proposed to solve our common problems.

Through canvassing with Hosticka, the Bus Project, etc., I’ve learned that the concerns voters in West Linn have are often the same concerns voters in Happy Valley or Cornelius have. And through looking at the presidential election as well, it’s clear Oregonians share their concerns with people all across this country. The ideas and questions all voters share must be heard by their leaders in order to make our representative democracy work.

That is why I do this job. Knocking on doors to get out the vote is very gratifying and necessary. However, I’m surprised at the criticism I and my Bus colleagues have received for doing it.

In September, I went to Happy Valley with the Bus Project to knock on doors for Shemia Fagan. Shortly before we arrived, Promote Oregon Leadership PAC warned residents that we were coming to spread “Portland values” and promote “rooftop gardens and sustainability centers” (which are definitely not Fagan’s priorities). They demanded that we “Get back on the Bus.”

It hurt a little to hear that. There is no reason to rebuke canvassers. When I am a Bus volunteer, it’s not my job to spread “Portland values.” It’s my job to share a candidate’s values and hear the voters’ values. I try to speak for the candidate so the candidate can speak for you. The job of a canvasser is essential, because our conversations can change minds and shift elections.

Every candidate knows this. They knock on doors too; they know the importance of volunteers. Is it so wrong for enthusiastic young people like me to try to increase voter turnout, even if not in my own district? That is our mission. Wherever we go, we canvass because people need to vote. Even when we’re telling them about candidate X, we just want people to vote for the person they know stands for their interests.

Voters, you have the power to elect people you trust. Know who stands for your interests. Communicate with candidates. And when a volunteer knocks on your door, don’t turn her away. She’s just making sure you know your power as a voter.

This is a representative democracy. Make sure you are represented.


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