Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Meet my canvassing partners: Jayla, Jada, Jaesa and Kayla.
I arrived yesterday at precinct #44 with a list of more than 70 doors to knock. In Butler county, it's a critical precinct: section 8 housing with many Democrats who often don't vote to the rate that they could. It has always gone red. Senator Kerry lost Ohio by 7 votes per precinct. My one goal for this election: win seven votes. Steal them from the GOP. We knew we needed #44 this time if we were going to do our part for this election, to cut into the Butler County GOP votes.
As a result, we sent a canvasser first thing in the morning and then I went back to all the same doors three hours later, to follow up and make sure they all voted. I arrived in the bright sunshine, parked my car and was immediately surrounded by curious children. I let them in on my goal for the day and the next thing you know, I was led by the hand door-by-door.
Jaesa grabbed the clipboard and Jada helped me find the door numbers.
"Stay on the stoop. This house? They got a big dog and he bites."
"Is my momma on yo' list?"
I'd look (uh-oh, no!) and say, "Yes! Let's go see your momma." And we'd go.
One little boy saw my white button and asked to swap me for a blue one. I gladly did. Then I gave the blue one away to a grandmother who had never had the chance to get to an HQ to obtain one for herself. Her comment, "I just want a piece of history for myself." Well of course she does! We all do.
I was introduced to everyone, spoke to many more families than my list indicated. One woman had been told that she couldn't vote because she was no longer living in her precinct. Not true! I called our field organizer and got campaign lawyers to tell us how to help her vote. Provisional ballot. Found three more in this neighborhood who had been also discouraged from voting for the same reason.
People stopped me to find out the polling location, when the polls closed, wondering how to actually vote! One woman told me that the polling place was on a street where they began construction on election day right in the front making parking nearly impossible. So I reminded every voter: be patient. Park, vote. (What kind of bone-headed city worker set up road work on election day?!)
I met so many wonderful people, had a gang of about six kids trailing me by the time I was done (including two boys on bikes). It took me nearly four hours to meet everyone and help them get out to vote. I saw many who had voted between the first and second canvass.
By the time I left, I felt so wonderful that this group, these lower income families living in what we sometimes call "White Chester," were going to see an African American elected and their votes would help him get there.
Last night, our big Butler County volunteer team met at Champs to watch the results roll in. CNN projected for Ohio, and we cheered, wept openly, hugged each other, screamed till we were hoarse. We knew we had done it!
When CNN projected Obama President Elect, the house fell down. Noise, screams, phone calls, text messages, everyone hugging each other, even waiters rolled into our raucous party! I felt used up, totally exhausted, thoroughly happy... and then, Allan, our canvassing captain hurried to me to drag me over to one of our co-workers.
One of the poll workers from Precinct #44 had come to the party. Allan said, "Listen to her. You won't believe it."
"Julie, Precinct #44 went blue.... by 11 votes."
My jaw dropped. 11 votes.
She went on, "They streamed in all afternoon until about 5:00 p.m. I watched them and they came with their door hangers, looking up the polling place and showing up to vote. They were happy and proud."
That's when this election became utterly personal for me. All that work, the thousands of calls and door knocks, the hours, the passion, the writing... It all felt deeply worthwhile. I know my community in a way I never did before, I felt bonded to people I had not even known lived within miles of me, I felt united in spirit with the hopes of my neighbors.
11 votes. When I started back in February, I had hoped to get 7. We did it.