By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
Political canvassers and organizers in the state are expecting they will continue to struggle with challenges to traditional campaigning, as the coronavirus crisis shows little signs of letting up.
Data showed low-income and minority voters are difficult to reach by phone or the internet, which is why door-to-door knocking can be one of the most effective ways to reach voters.
Daniel Withrow, former candidate for the Greenbrier County Commission, said his campaign was drastically impacted by the pandemic.
“Probably the biggest thing was not being able to actually canvass or go door to door,” Withrow recounted. “What I did during my campaign was, I would park somewhere along the road with signs and wave at people, and hope that people would stop and want to discuss the issues.”
But he pointed out as more residents get vaccinated, there might be more opportunity to interact with voters next election cycle, compared with last September, when almost two in three voters said they were apprehensive of door-to-door political canvassers amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll.
Withrow believes the current situation is a setback for state Democrats, who already have had difficulty connecting with voters. More than 68% of West Virginians voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020.
“I just feel like to change what’s going on, the Democratic Party statewide is going to have to be a grassroots effort, and that’s going to be slow and time-consuming,” Withrow stated.
Voting rights, the impact of climate-related disasters and the decline of the coal economy continue to be major issues for West Virginia voters.