Sunday, November 04, 2012

Gettin' the vote out 2012

Crowded canvassing headquarters
Back in  February of 2011, I participated in a grass-roots organizing event run by state and national Democrats, local labor unions, and a group called "Organizing America."  The event was part of a national organizing and planning effort in anticipation of the election that was still 20 months away.

Those early organizational efforts are now bearing fruit, as I clearly saw when I took part in a highly-organized canvassing drive this weekend.

Let me tell you, if the drive here in Portland is any indication of the Democratic ground game nationally, President Obama will win going away on Tuesday.

Mayor Adams rallies the troops
About a week ago, I got a phone call from someone with a  group called "Defend Oregon" asking for my help with the election.  I've volunteered a lot in past elections, and it was no surprise that I might be on a list. 

I'd actually decided earlier the year that I wasn't going to participate in this election as vigorously as I have in the past.  But the caller was courteous, so I listened.  He gave me the wheres and whens for the drive, but the call came as I was driving home from work.  I wasn't in any position to write down the particulars.  I explained this.  His response?  "No problem.  We've got your email.  I'll send you a reminder."  I was impressed. 

So, about 2pm on Saturday, I made my way down to the Defend Oregon Headquarters on 6th and Stark to participate in a get-out-the-vote canvassing operation.

Defend Oregon folks instruct the volunteers
It was an impressive display of organization.  I'd no sooner walked through the door than I was signed in and directed to an area where staffers gave us  instructions and materials.  There were some 3 dozen campaign workers on hand directing people and answering questions.  Mayor Sam Adams was there too, shaking hands and rallying folks.

Fired up, ready to go
The materials I was given included data sheets listing the names and addresses of registered voters (Democrats and Independents).  The data were organized by neighborhood.  The names on the lists were voters from whom no ballots had been received by the county elections offices.  That is to say:  people who, so far as the county elections office knew, had not yet voted.

"We're not collecting ballots," our instructor told us.  "We're reminding people that it is time to vote and informing them of ballot collection points in their neighborhoods."  Real easy.  No message to sell.  Just reminding folks to get their ballots in.
My canvassing partner, Faye, on the right
In addition to our canvassing data, we took three or four dozen door-hangers:  flyers that we would leave on doors.  These flyers had ballot collection point information as well as helpful recommendations (from a progressive point of view) on specific ballot measures.  The recommendations matched my own ballot, right down the line.

I got partnered up with Faye, a woman from my own neighborhood.  She's professor emeritus from Portland Sate and quite a personable woman.  We drove to the Alameda neighborhood, right in the heart of Northeast Portland.

In 2010, when I volunteered with the Kitzhaber campaign, I learned that the single best predictor of how a person will vote is the neighborhood in which he lives.  Well, Alameda is a very blue neighborhood.  My canvassing data had me literally knocking on two to five doors on every street block.  Obama/Biden campaign signs were everywhere.

A map with specific addresses to visit
Faye and I had a big area to cover, and we didn't get to it all.  I knocked on about 50 doors.  Many of the folks I spoke with had already turned in their ballots.  Some planned to drop them off soon. 

The reception I received from folks was fairly positive.  Several people thanked me for canvassing.

Darkness was coming down fast when we headed back to headquarters.  Volunteers ate bread and soup from Old Wive's Tales.  (I took a bowl of very rich and hearty split pea.  It was the perfect post-canvassing repast.)

All in all, it was a highly-organized, efficient operation. 

Democrats have the ground game, folks.  Republicans have never been able to match it.

Bring on Tuesday.

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