Today marks the close of what we in the political world call “petitioning.” According to New York State law, all candidates must collect a specific number of signatures from voters registered in specific political parties in order to be represented on the ballot. For example, I’m running for Town of Oyster Bay council as a Democrat and thus, needed to collect approximately 1500 signatures from other registered Democrats who live in the Town of Oyster Bay in order to be on the ballot in November. I’m fortunate and grateful that I’ve also been endorsed by the Working Families Party (WFP) and the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) as well as the Independence Party. These latter endorsements are decided and awarded after a candidate has completed a questionnaire, an interview, or both.
“Petitioning,” is the term used by my political colleagues and I for going door-to-door to collect these signatures. Personally, I happen to like going door-to-door. It’s an opportunity for the voters and I to meet each other, and for me to hear what’s important to them (as well as collect signatures.) The specified time frame to collect signatures is approximately 6 weeks, from early-june to mid-july. Now, as much as I like “knocking doors,” as we say, you can imagine how it feels like a bit of a workout, especially after two or more hours in the summer heat. And in case I’ve painted a rosy picture of door-knocking, please allow me to clarify that it is hard work.
Doors are regularly slammed in my face, often because the person who answers is not of my party. Or people are tired of politics and distrustful of politicians. Or they just don’t like that I’ve knocked. (Most recently a man in my neighborhood told me, “You’ve just lost my vote” simply because I knocked on his door.) To a certain extent, I get it. Our society has morphed into one where we are suspicious of strangers. Additionally, we are often overworked and enjoy the uninterrupted sanctuaries of our homes. Someone knocks on our door, and we suspect a request is coming – a stranger (!) asking us to do something, on top of our already busy lives.
Trust me, I get it. I’m a mom of two sons under the age of 10 who also works full-time, is pursuing a PhD in Education part-time, and is also running for political office. I understand busy.
Here’s the thing: Democracy is participatory. A price we pay as citizens for living in a democratic society is that people will knock on your door. It may not be the candidate – It will likely be one of thousands of volunteers who feel so passionately about creating change that they will give up weeks of their lives in order to help get candidates elected. There are insufficient words to accurately convey my gratitude to these many, hard-working people. I assure you they would rather be home with their families, but they’re not. They’re at your door, asking for you to do your small part. So please, sign.
To say I’m grateful that I live in a country that enables us to elect our leaders is an understatement. As a veteran, I’ve witnessed countries where women were not treated as equals. To that end, I must acknowledge the privilege that I possess as a female candidate in the greatest country on Earth. The foundation of “We the people” does not exist without the voter. I’m grateful to all those I’ve met over these past six weeks, and to all those whose doors I’ll knock on from now to Election Day. Party regardless, it is these face-to-face interactions that will help us remove and resolve the dichotomous nature of political affiliation.
Years ago (while watching Oprah, I confess) I heard the following quote from Queen Rania of Jordan:
“If we turn our backs on one another, we’ll never see eye to eye.”