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It Pays To Play By The Rules


The day was planned out perfectly. I would check in at the student center, and then set up to register voters at California State University Fullerton (CSUF).

Then something went wrong. The administrator could not find our name in the computer system. Without approval, we had no permission to set up. I insisted that there must have been a mistake but she was adamant. I asked her what were our options and she said that we could either leave or set up without approval—we would just run the risk of being caught.

I mulled over the latter option as I walked back to my car: Should we just ignore the rules and set up anyways? What’s the worst that could happen? My fellow volunteer, Mark, informed me that a lot could happen. First, we would be dismissed from the campus for that day. But even more importantly, we would harm the relationship between us and the campus, potentially losing CSUF as a place to canvass for the entire campaign.

As much as it clashed with my instinct, I knew Mark was right. I called our volunteers and told them the event was cancelled. Then suddenly, I had an idea: why not make a new reservation? Putting on the event today was a lost cause, but as long as I was there, I could ensure that we could schedule a future event.

I raced back to the student center. The director was there this time, and when I told him our story he finally realized what happened. Our application had been approved—it had just not been inputted into the computer system. “However, since you guys decided to be honest instead of set up without permission,” he said. “I’m going to grant you approval for today, rather than make you submit a new application.”

I was ecstatic. I called back our volunteers and we ended up having a very productive day registering voters and recruiting volunteers.

The lesson from this is that it pays to be honest. Faced with a setback, we could have easily ignored the rules, but our ethos of honesty and a willingness to cooperate inspired the staff to help us instead. Have a plan, stick to it, and be honest. It pays to play by the rules.

Help Paul get out of his next canvassing “pickle”. Sign up to volunteer with him in Orange County today.

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