Stories from the US campaign trail: 'Everything is intensified here and much more exciting as a result'

5th November 2016 at 15:02
US campaign trail
In our fifth instalment from the US campaign trail, UK sixth-formers taking part say that the experience of a major election in America is far more intense than it is back home

As the final stages of the US presidential race get underway, 20 sixth-formers from five UK schools have joined campaigners for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and a number of the Republican congressional races. The students are part of the Inspire US 2016 programme, run by education charity The Transformation Trust, which offers opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them develop new employability skills and grow in confidence. TES will carry a report each day from the students.

Reporting from Florida are Liam Stobie, Katie Ewart, Caitlin Munn and Morven Mackay from Leith Academy, Edinburgh

Today we were campaigners for the Democratic Party in the battleground district of Clearwater Beach. After a quick briefing and refreshment from the snack counter, we became immersed in a full day of being a staffer – the fast-paced campaigning environment that the political activists on Hillary's campaign are used to. Volunteers handed us our packs and then we were out door-to-door campaigning in order to "get out the vote" (GOTV).

Walking through the streets of Florida, the sun peeping between the leaves of the trees, you could feel the political vibe all around you. From the bright garden signs to the over-the-top flags hanging from people's roofs, you could certainly tell there was an election going on – a stark comparison to the often half-hearted posters in the odd window during a UK general election. Everything is intensified in Florida and much more exciting as a result. No surprise, then, that we were all hyped up and ready for action.

A mild panic set in in our camp when disaster struck and the coach broke down while travelling to a new precinct to knock. However, it was quickly resolved when we all got to go in the staffers' cars and went door-to-door for the final part of the day. This was a much faster approach because we didn't have to walk long distances to the odd secluded house, or wait around for our coach to collect us once we had spoken to all of our voter contacts. The experience allowed us to see a side of the city that you never usually would see as a tourist, as well as to engage with communities we otherwise would not have met.

Getting out the vote

Surprisingly, a lot of the registered voters who we spoke to were not planning to vote. We thought this might be due to the areas in which they live having a history of poverty, lower representation and less aspiration to be politically active.

One woman in particular came to the door with children all around her. She was not planning to vote. Talking to her, we explained the ways she could vote and told her how important and valuable her vote could be. She thanked us and accepted our leaflet, which detailed the early voting locations in her area and where she could find more information on voting. As we were walking away from her house, we felt genuine pride in ourselves that we were doing something productive, that we might actually have made the difference between someone's view being expressed as to not. We were successfully GOTV.

At a personal level, the main challenge was the amount of doors we had to visit in the sweltering heat and, being Scottish, the heat was a particular struggle! Thankfully we managed to persevere and complete all of our voter contacts.

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