GOTV: It Makes a Difference

I drove to the hometown of Blue America-endorsed Mark Schauer today to make sure Mark beats crazy wingnut Tim Walberg. I wanted to knock doors in Battle Creek rather than Ann Arbor because it doubles my power–every person voting for Schauer will help put Obama over the top in MI, and every Obama voter should vote to ensure Obama has another ally in the House with Mark Schauer. Plus, Ann Arbor can be a big bubble of happy Democrats (as can the lefty blogosphere), and I wanted to get out of that bubble to see how more swing areas of the state are responding to this election.

And the drive and the canvass were worth it.

My canvass partner and I were working in a neighborhood that was almost exactly 50-50 African-American and white (with a few mixed race couples as well). There were some beautiful old houses, but a lot of houses that needed some work, too. A number of young families. We spoke to a lot of first time or sporadic voters. And our conversations are going to make a difference.

There was the African-American guy out raking his lawn. He said he was supporting Obama, but didn’t really engage at first. But then when I asked him if he knew where he voted, he got more animated. I explained which Church he votes at. I explained how he could vote a straight ticket or mark off all the Democrats he wanted to support. I reminded him to flip the ballot over to vote separately for Diane Hathaway to replace the odious Cliff Taylor in the State Supreme Court. I warned him to bring a photo ID to fulfill MI’s new photo ID requirement. And I explained the hours.

I can’t guarantee he’ll vote. But I can guarantee that having someone come to his house to explain how to vote will make it much more likely he will.

There were a bunch of people like this–people who were really enthusiastic for Barack Obama but were really happy to have someone explain where to go, what to do.  Twice,  when people called out from behind still-locked doors, "what do you want?" they immediately opened the door with a smile when I said I was an Obama volunteer). And then there was the mother and son who had registered to vote this year, but had not yet received their registration card–the campaign will follow-up to make sure they get out to vote. The campaign office had a sign in it that said for every 12 people you talk to, one will come out to vote who otherwise wouldn’t have. Between my canvass partner and I, there are at least three more votes for Obama and Schauer (and hopefully Hathaway), though I suspect the number is closer to 5 or 6. Repeat that hundreds and thousands of times, and it’ll make the difference in another state or two. 

This is not a normal election. There are thousands, millions of people out there excited to vote for Barack Obama. But they might not vote unless you get out there and hold their hand

Help get out the vote.

26 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Heh, a local Marcy and friend just came to my door to convince me to get to the polls. “Hello, is bmaz home”. They has a list of registered Dems and were working it by specific name and address. Very impressive. Here in Maricopa County I have never had anyone come doing anything but just going door to door to every house in the neighborhood. These nice young folks were working jointly for Obama08 and AZ Dems and were specifically targeting their voters. Wow.

    You are right, for the people that don’t yet know the exact location of their polling place, or the poll hours, or that they can get assistance in getting there, this is an incredibly effective thing.

    Especially this election. People want to to vote. HELP THEM!

  2. Kathryn in MA says:

    I was up in Nashua, NH, Thurs, and, indeed, the canvassing lists are totally impressive. At the top of the page is listed the address of the polling place, so we can remind people of that. Also, they keep track of who has already voted, and they are taken off the canvassing lists – data entry goes on till late at night. There is a place to check if the homeowner refuses to talk any more, and they are not bothered again. The Obama team will even send out cars to whomever hasn’t voted Tues to remind!!!

    • lllphd says:

      kathryn, i’m in MA also, and am leaving tomorrow afternoon to spend monday and tuesday helping out in NH. did this four years ago when it made a “bigger difference,” but still want to put my shoulder to the wheel this time, too; so historic. great to know things are going well up there. i’ll likely target manchester, as they have a much larger minority population. and we so want sheheen to beat sununu, too! both NH races seem pretty done, but at this point, i’m just eager to keep the civic enthusiasm alive and kickin’! i’m hoping that folks canvassing will just start getting everyone to the polls, no matter dem or republican, as this will be such great pr. in the long haul, we need as much GOOD WILL to be projected out there as we can manage. so i hope anyone investing in these efforts will keep this in mind; this is about recovering our unity, and no better place to start than each of us reaching out.

      thanks, EW!

    • beard5 says:

      Kathryn, I’m up here in Concord, volunteering and doing the data entry for all the folks that are canvasing. I’ve gathered up all my courage, and fought my agoraphobia (severe) to get out and help. There’s all sorts of folks in NH doing the same. We want to see Obama destroy McCain in the election, and to sweep Sununununununu out of office. Thanks for the work in Nashua.

      This is the best run campaign I’ve ever seen, everything is focused. The dedication of the volunteers is remarkable.

  3. chunyang says:

    Here in North Carolina we all talk about the “Obama-Straight-Flip” to remind people they must vote separately for President, then straight ticket if they want, THEN flip the ballot to vote for the judges,etc.who run non-partisan. In my county, 50% of registered voters have voted early – really amazing!

  4. posaune says:

    Delivered lunch to three canvas homes today in No. Virginia. Wow — those folks are organized! Sign in sheets for all canvasers. Route packets waiting in a plastic box by the door. Living room packed with volunteers. They were really happy to have the food deliveries for today and tomorrow.

    The Arlington office has all the food shifts organized through Tuesday. morning, noon, and night shifts. By the way, we donated our supply of LED headlamps for the night canvasers and they were really appreciated since it allows free hands for writing, etc. And that Arlington office was humming ! Roger Revelle’s daughter flew in from California to canvas!

    • emptywheel says:


      For those who are not comfortable canvassing, bringing food really makes a difference. I had a bowl of great chili/stew when I got to BC, while I was being trained. It really helps!

  5. Gunner says:

    Hey EW that’s great you got out there for GOVT thank you because this year is not good for me to help so that’s real cool of you picking up the slack go Mark

  6. oregondave says:

    My report from NE Portland: We had a volunteer and her teenage son at our door a half hour ago doing GOTV for Obama. She was asking if my partner had voted (my name was not on her list, as I mailed in my ballot two weeks ago). I had just dropped off her ballot outside the county election office earlier this afternoon (too late to trust the mails). So she checked off our household, her son remarked what a nice looking cat we had, and went on with the work.

    Reading reports of this kind of organization and commitment all across the country. Augers well.

  7. freepatriot says:

    I have my own GOTV method

    for about the past 10 years I’ve put up signs to help people find my precinct polling place, cuz it’s kinda hard to find if you’ve never been there

    now I think the people of my neighborhood are becoming dependent on the signs (some have said that they didn’t know there was an election that day until they saw one of my signs)

    I don’t think that’s gonna be an issue this time

    I’m seeing signs in yards that never had signs in them before

    people are PISSED

    usually there is an even mixture of repuglitard and Democrats

    not this year

    there are three or four mcsame signs

    and hundreds of Obama signs

    I’m thinkin my neighborhood is solidly commie this year

  8. mkls says:

    I’ve been canvassing for 9? 10? 12? weekends straight here in Virginia, and I tell myself my aching knees are worth it. We’re down to 2 days of undecideds, sporadics and maybe’s — and this is where voter information is so important. I spent maybe 15 minutes with a young Hispanic mother this morning, explaining HAVA requirements and polling places while her young son ate pudding and smiled at me from the carpet. I have but one vote for this campaign — but when I canvass, I can make sure of a lot more (I can’t remember the net outcome per knock) but a hell of a lot more than just my vote.
    When I think of how I wished and hoped and prayed for a good outcome in 2004 — and wept then those exit polls were wrong — I can’t begin to draw the parallel. Not only do I feel a lot more effective — I know I AM a lot more effective.
    You can be too. Please help GOTV. You won’t be sorry.

    • lllphd says:

      those exit polls weren’t wrong, mkls; never forget that.

      that election was stolen, kerry won, as did gore.

      points that make the past 8 years of hell all the more infuriating,
      and this (hopefully!) win all the more delicious.

      thanks for all your work; VA is extremely important. you’ll have much to be proud of no matter the outcome.

  9. JohnLopresti says:

    Our county opened permanent absentee status without question years ago after state law permitted us to do it. Absentee turnout nearly doubles with each election. Moritz has reported that CO refused 30,000 absentee ballots recently because that state requires a xerox of your photo ID accompany the mailed-in ballot. Canvass will help offset repressive regimes’ reign from the backoffice.

  10. freepatriot says:

    Our neighborhood grocery store has a bulletin board near the doors, for lost dogs and yard sales, stuff like that

    on tuesday, it’s gonna have a big “VOTE TODAY” sign on it

    a well placed sign can reach voters ALL DAY LONG

    fire up those printers, people

    use a little color …

    if weather might be a factor, totally cover the sign with clear tape for protection

    and then sneak out late on monday night or early tuesday morning, and plant reminder signs anywhere you think it could help

    oh, and one more thing, remember where you put your signs, and go take em down on wednesday morning

  11. Minnesotachuck says:

    I did my first canvassing this afternoon and was as impressed as bmaz, Kathryn in MA and others were with how well it’s organized. Four years ago I did GOTV under MoveOn’s auspices. That had pretty good data organization as well, but not as good as this year’s directly under the Obama campaign umbrella. Plus the training was a lot better this year. The overall management seemed considerably better this time around.

    The list was supposed to contain only people who were thought to lean Democratic, but there were a few ringers. One woman was vehemently anti-choice and anti-gay marriage, and thus voting for McCain. Another 70 something woman said she was normally a Democrat and would vote that way in several down-ticket races, but was for McCain for Prez. Wouldn’t say why, although I didn’t pursue it far since that was contrary to our instructions.

    Several people vocalized about campaign fatigue. I didn’t count, but I’d guess nearly half the people were not home. Probably because it was a beautiful day here, with a high of about 60. Anyway, it was an interesting day.

  12. masaccio says:

    I’m going to Columbus, OH tomorrow. I hope to be in in time to see Obama, then on to Athens as an attorney observer and whatever else I can do. We need this one.

    • lllphd says:

      wow, thanks for the lawyering, masaccio; hope we don’t need too much of that.

      (say hi to barack for me, would ya?)

  13. dww44 says:

    I canvassed today and will again tomorrow, as I have done the last 2 weekends, along with phone banking weekdays. Am in a red red state that has just been put in play. Our GOTV effort is solely targeted to poor, mostly inner city African American neighborhoods. Because of the early voting, a large number have already voted. What remains are the elderly who need transportation, which we will provide, and young ones, whom the campaign registered within the last 3 months. Around town there is an overwhelming majority of McCain-Palin signs, a lot of which appear to have just been added in the last couple of days. Mostly overkill. My favorite though was a sign that was the same color as McCain-Palin, but, instead read Palin, Really? It was nestled in the middle of legitimate signs at an interseciton where a goodly number of likely McCain voters pass every day. It was gone yesterday. But, gave me a good laugh.

    Obama and Biden signs have been notoriously hard to come by and they had to be bought. No freebies , which a lot of folks don’t understand. I am told that the campaign doesn’t believe that the signs have a lot of impact. Maybe they are right. They’ve been right about most everything else.

  14. egregious says:

    I think I persuaded my brother and my nephew in Indiana that the state is in play, and they should call everybody they know to help get out the vote there.

  15. scribe says:

    I’ll be working outside a polling place in Philly come Tuesday – helping people understand how to vote, keeping them in the line and reporting. This, I’m told is exceptionally important b/c (a) PA has no early voting and the lines get huge and (b) most elections are decided by 2 or 3 votes per precinct.

    Keep 2 or 3 extra people in line (I suspect this will be a good line to use on people – it could be you!) and win.

    Also, from the size of the crowds in training, it looks like literal battalions of lawyers have signed up to go into PA to do this.

  16. Neil says:

    Great post. It’s true that people with good intentions still need a helping hand to span the emotional divide and act on their good intentions. Thanks Marcy.

    It seems everyone is getting into the act in this presidential campaign. Here’s a story about McCain supporter in Gross Point Farms, MI who vetted trick-or-treat-ers (as young as four years old) to determine whether they were suitable candidates for a treat. LMAO. Watch here.

  17. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Just a thank-you to everyone who wrote about what they’re doing, and how well organized it is this year. Makes me heartened just to read the comments here. Special thanks the the attys in the group for their work in protecting the electoral process.

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