Safer canvassing

Canvassing is an integral aspect of the democratic process and a great way to campaign and engage with constituents.

It encourages voter registration, mobilises voters to participate and helps to ensure you know what issues are concerning your constituents. 

The LGA is aware of concerns expressed by councillors and candidates regarding possible instances of harassment during canvassing activities and, in response, has published a new guide to safer canvassing.

‘Seven principles for safer canvassing’ complements other LGA resources for councillors, including our ‘Councillors’ guide to handling harassment, abuse and intimidation’.

The guide outlines seven principles for safer canvassing and offers some helpful, practical hints for canvassers. If you are a member of a political group, you may find it offers specific advice to its candidates, volunteers, and councillors. You should integrate its advice into the structure of canvassing activities.

The seven principles are:

Be prepared, not scared. Regularly assess risks, seek available training and support, including advice from local police, parties, or council, and trust your instincts for personal safety during canvassing to ensure a confident and secure approach.

Focus on group safety. Whenever possible, canvass in groups or pairs for safety – and because it is more enjoyable. Inform others of your whereabouts if canvassing alone. 

Actively communicate with the team and set periodic check-ins. Share canvassing plans with the team and trusted contacts, establishing regular check-ins for safety. 

Use technology to make canvassing safer. Use available technological aids like wearable devices and tracking apps for mobile phones. Familiarise yourself with smartphone security functions beforehand and align technology choices with the risk assessment for canvassing.

Be security aware. Try carrying only essentials and avoid going into residents’ homes. When available, follow party ‘do-not-knock’ lists and update them if you encounter any problem.

Keep a record. Maintain a detailed incident log and report any uncomfortable situations encountered while canvassing. Sharing incident reports with both your party and the council/police ensures appropriate awareness and action.

Prioritise aftercare and set emergency protocols. Offer team support after any experiences of abuse or intimidation, prioritising aftercare. Debrief sessions should encourage sharing experiences and seeking support, focusing on both positive and negative encounters. Periodically review emergency response procedures.

The guide also offers practical tips for how to engage safely with people while canvassing, and suggestions for including the seven principles in local canvassing strategies.

Tips include accessing training offered by your political party or council; seeking advice from the local police; adopting a ‘buddy’ system; establishing a code word with your canvassing partner to use if you or they feel unsafe; avoiding canvassing at night, where possible; and avoiding canvassing alone – but if you do so, make sure other people know where you are, when you plan to return, and when you have finished canvassing.

Perhaps most importantly, follow your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, remove yourself from the situation and reach out for help.

Canvassing is about listening and finding out people’s concerns as well as how they vote. Most interactions with constituents are positive and rewarding. 

Integrating safety into your local canvassing strategy from the start will make candidates and canvassers feel much more confident.

Seven principles for safer canvassing: a guide for councillors and candidates’, can be downloaded for free on the LGA website.

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