The Set Up
After canvassing for three days we had a list of people who needed rides to and from the polls. I and a few other people came up with a dispatch operation where we would bring everyone to the same polling place to make the drops and the pickups so that they would run more smoothly. When our lead coordinator got wind of the idea, she asked me if I could be a “runner” since I was going to already be stationed at the polling location. She put my name and number on a flow chart sheet with “runner” next to it. Not two minutes later, a person came up and told me that they heard I was a runner and asked if I recruit and send volunteers to a staging area three blocks from the polls. Then another person came up to me and said they too heard I was runner. Five minutes later a volunteer came up to me and said “so I hear your the lead polling coordinator.” I was moving up the ladder quite quickly.
I was stationed at Fletcher Elementary School 100 feet away from the polls per law. I had a table and Barack Obama swag along with some informative flyers about other polling locations. The most common query I got was that a person was at the wrong location and they needed to know the correct place to go. For that I would have to call someone at our office in order to look up the information. There were lots of other volunteers with me. Some from the Obama group and some not. I won’t dwell on it, but it was extremely chaotic. Lots of emotionally charged, sleep-deprived, well-meaning volunteers can be a bit much. What you really need is one reallly calm person to give answers.
The neighborhood where Fletcher Elementary is located is in a lower income neighborhood. Many people who live in the area work multiple jobs. Canvassing, I would notice an equally high percentage of African Americans and Hispanics with a small minority of Caucasians. As it turned out it was not a demographic that favored John McCain. While canvassing I ran in to a few McCain supporters but I only saw one at the polls — at least so far as I could tell.
I made a point to ask voters “how it went” as they were exiting. There were a lot of provisional ballots which we believed was due to bad training of the poll worker who looks up a person’s name on the rolls. Apparently this person would send people straight to the provisional line without troubleshooting. Of course this is hearsay since I wasn’t inside the polls to confirm.
Many of the African Americans I talked to were first time voters and there were children everywhere. They wanted stickers and posters and signs — basically anything Obama. I told a group of three kids that they could pull some of the yard signs out of the ground and take those home if they wanted. They screamed and ran directly to the signs to pull them out. Not ten minutes later another kid came by and after a couple of minutes of small talk got to the point that he heard I had yard signs. By that time I was out of swag so I asked the office to send some more over. At the end of the night a SUV pulled up and a woman told me she’d heard I had signs. They were a hit.
There is something quite special about the enthusiasm of the voters that day. I really need to say this. Barack Obama is greatly indebted to the Hispanic voters of Colorado. I don’t mean to diminish the African American support Obama receives. That of course is great but it is well known. I did not know how much support he had from Hispanics. They were proud to vote Obama. They were proud to vote Democrat in fact. One man came up to me and pointed to the Obama sign. You a democrat, he asked. Yes I said. Do you have a list of everyone I should vote for, he asked. For the initiatives I directed him to a volunteer from Vote Colorado who had a flyer, but I told him if he wanted to vote for candidates that were Democrat to check the box next to Democrat on each person’s name. He said “yes that’s all I want. Only Democrats.” Karl Rove, you have your work cut out for you.
I actually saw people whose doors I had knocked on in previous days. I made a point to tell them that I was glad they made it out. Maybe they would have come anyway even if I hadn’t knocked on their doors but it felt great thinking that I made have been responsible for a vote.
I read today some speculation that one of Obama and Pelosi’s top priorities is to pass legislation favoring unions. Here’s what I have to say to that. Obama is greatly indebted to unions also. I have never in my life seen people work so hard for a political organization. We volunteers would knock on maybe 100 doors a day. The union folk: 400. They are machines with clear objectives and systems to accomplish those objectives. I may not be pro-union on everything, but there is no doubt in my mind that unions protect workers rights and more importantly they force employers to provide health insurance to their employees — something that would not happen in some jobs without unions. I guess what I’m saying is that unions are a good thing and we shouldn’t begrudge unions from benefiting from an Obama administration. They deserve it.
We closed up shop at 7:00pm and within two hours Colorado was called for Obama. I’m glad it’s over.