Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ashamed to Ask About Registering?

I had a success for President Obama's campaign that ultimately made me pretty sad the more I've thought about it.

I went to the somewhat rundown home of a 90 year old man in a small town today. The front door was completely sealed off with plastic sheeting (for insulation; I've seen a lot of it on the poorer homes around here). I went around the back to a broken porch, and went up the steps. A man was just starting out the door when I got to the top step.

I told him my name and that I was with the president's campaign, and asked for the man whose name I had on the list, thinking that it could be him. He told me that the guy was inside sitting at the kitchen table, and that I should go in. He accompanied me inside.

I introduced myself, and had a really pleasant chat with the 90 year old life-long Democrat. He told me that the country couldn't afford Romney's policies, and of course I agreed. He always votes on the day, and just has to go a couple of blocks, so I didn't bug him to vote early and promised not to bother him again as he votes in every election. When I asked if I could put an Obama-Biden sign on his lawn, he told me to put out as many as I wanted.

I asked the other fellow if he was also a supporter of the President, and he told me that he doesn't vote.

Then, he followed me outside and took me aside. He said that he wasn't supposed to vote. I assumed (I know, I know, makes an ass out of you and me, but it turns out I was somewhat right) that he was referring to a felony conviction, so I said that even if he'd been convicted of a felony he might be eligible to vote. (Iowa did let felons vote automatically after they'd served their time, but the current Republican governor rescinded that law last year, and now they have to pay all outstanding obligations to the court, serve a period of parole, supply credit reports, and then apply for the right, which may or may not be granted.) He looked at me in shock and said no, he didn't commit a felony, but he had a DUI 30 years ago and was told he wasn't entitled to vote after that.

I explained to him that he could vote if he had identification (he pulled out his driver's license) and could prove where he lived. Well, he told me that the old guy was his dad, and he himself was 58 years old, and he lived there with his father. Younger than I am, and I was ready to think that he was 90! He had a bad facial skin condition of some sort, infected eyes, and just seemed as though he got no medical attention, which I suspect is the case.

Anyway, I got out a voter registration form to show him what he'd need to bring with him, and he agreed to go to with his father to the polls on Tuesday, with his ID and proof of residence (in Iowa you can register on the day, and someone who knows you can actually vouch for your address. a state of such interesting contrasts. Of course, Governor Branstad would love to make it harder to vote.)

So my canvassing colleague and I practically high-fived each other over the lawn signs on a big corner lot, and an extra vote for Obama.

Then we used her hand sanitizer because we had both shaken the guy's hand, and he looked pretty infected.

Then, I started to think about how sad it was, to me, that all these years this guy had thought he couldn't vote, didn't try to find out, even in a household that values voting. And took me aside out of the hearing of his father to admit to me that he "wasn't supposed" to vote. He seemed so ashamed. People have such hidden struggles.

Yesterday, I gave a couple the information they needed for their disabled 26 year old son to vote. They had asked me if he was allowed to vote if he was disabled. He wanted to vote for President Obama. I said that if he wanted to vote he was entitled to vote. (citizen, resident, at least 18. . .) I gave them a registration form, and we discussed the logistics of going in on Monday to get it taken care of. I'm pretty sure they will follow through, and they also let me put up multiple signs for Obama-Biden and Christie Vilsack (running against the vile Steve King).

But who has a 26 year old son and doesn't know his rights as a citizen? They were nice people and strong Democrats, in a fairly run-down trailer park. I think that it can just be so hard struggling economically, with the added challenges of a disabled child, and maybe afraid of being rebuffed by the bureaucracy (speculating here) that only because someone literally showed up at the door to help could they bring themselves to ask? Also: evidence of untreated medical and definitely untreated dental issues.

Life is so frickin' hard for so many people.

Behind the Scenes: Saturday, November 3

I left Denison at 7:00 am (before light) to drive to Onawa for our first day of GOTV, bringing the folders of walk and call packets to Ken, who is the staging director (or some similar title) and is also hosting the staging at his house. I started the morning scrambling eggs from his chickens for the small group of us there early - including two young guys from Chicago who arrived at his house last night to help canvass in Monona county. The eggs were really big, and heavy, with thick shells. I always buy free range chicken eggs, but they are nothing like these. These seem to be particularly happy chickens, but I'm not sure how that translates to large eggs.

Then two women from Kansas, around my age or a bit older, arrived to help canvass until Monday morning. They're staying in a motel in Onawa. Now that I don't need to go back and forth between Onawa and Denison, the hour and fifteen minute drive each way seems stupid, and I'm considering joining them. Anyway, they're fabulous, ex-middle school teachers, right up my alley. Fun and smart. One of them was the canvassing captain, kept everything organized, and also canvassed a turf. Her friend went out with me, and we did one rural and one semi-rural turf. She came along to a few doors with me, and then I drove and she walked up to the houses while I plotted the next stop.

When we converged back at the house at the end of the day, the names of people who've already voted got "struck." I didn't stick around for that, because I needed to drive back to my hotel in Denison. But the idea is that after the Secretary of State posts the names of people who've voted that day, we "strike" them from our call and walk lists.

And tomorrow we go out again! And Monday! And Tuesday! The idea is that we have lists only of pro-Obama voters who haven't voted yet. We go to the door, ask to speak to the person on our list, ask if they support the President, and remind them to vote. We also ask them to consider voting early, which they can do through Monday. This not only puts their vote in the bag, but allows us to strike their name and not go back again to remind them to vote.

And we wonder why people are frickin' sick of us!

If no one is home, we have very elaborate, kind of colorful and lovely, tree-killing door knob hangers. For today, Sunday, and Monday they say "Vote Tuesday", and each one has the address of their local precinct, so we have to be careful with the packets. For Tuesday, they're a darker blue, and say "Vote Today."

EVERY TIME we go to someone's door and they're not home, unless and until they are struck from the list, they get a doorknob hanger.

Here's how you got off of our master list up through and including yesterday: 1. die; 2. move; 3. be a Romney supporter; 4. VOTE.

Here's how you get off now: VOTE.

We're keeping notes and won't actually go back to people's houses who've told us that they support Romney, or that someone has died. But the call lists won't be changed. I'm determined not to get sucked into calling again. Everyone hates it. I hate it.

Here's how you stymie us: put a dog pen outside your front door, completely surrounding the entrance to your house, and then put a big dog in it. Seems to be a bit of a thing here. Maybe only during campaign season?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Lots of Hang Ups!

By which I mean people hanging up on me (and all of the other phone bankers) when we call to ask if they've sent in their ballots (ballot chase) or if they'll work a shift in the four days leading up to the election (GOTV volunteer calls). Most people sensibly just don't pick up. I certainly wouldn't. At least we're calling in person, and with a specific purpose, but it's still unbelievably annoying of us. I have my own rules. I don't call anyone over 75 after 7:30, don't call anyone over 65 after 8:00, and don't call anyone after 8:30. We're supposed to call until 9:00. Really? This is rural Iowa, and among other things, many people don't have caller ID and can't avoid us without missing calls that they would actually like to take.

We're supposed to have lists just of Obama supporters at this point, but sometimes there's a mistake and they're Republicans, or they're usually Democrats but don't support President Obama. I reached one dad whose kid had moved. He was the worst today. "So, this means you're okay with murdering babies?" "Sorry to bother you, sir," as I start to hang up the phone. "What is it with you abortionist baby killers. . ." I hear him shouting as I hang up.

One of my own folks hung up on me today. A couple hadn't signed their mail-in ballot affidavit, so I had brought them a new request form and then delivered it to the court house. We agreed that I would check in today to be sure they'd gotten their new ballot, and would pick it up and deliver it to the courthouse if they wanted me to. When I called their house this afternoon to check, and said "Hi, Larry, this is Kathy from the Obama campaign. . ." - click! I had another house to visit in their town because I didn't have the guy's phone number, so I drove over to check on both sets of ballots. When I get to Larry and Ann's house (names changed to protect. . .) they're happy to see me, and have already mailed in their ballots. Larry refuses to vote on the day because the folks at their local polling station "are a bunch of jerks" and won't go in to vote early at the courthouse because "they're a bunch of jerks." I get his point, as I guess the local officials always try to get him to declare a party. Anyway, he's definitely Mr. Cranky-pants. But I ended up seeing all of their granddaughter's engagement and wedding photos, which were beautiful. And when I told him he hung up on me, he said he realized it had probably been me when I showed up at the door.

Awkward segue: Onawa, where I spend most of my time, is actually the town where the big Hope-Action-Change live stream was held, when we were all supposed to host house parties to view it together back in 2007. (Bob and I hosted a house party, though we ended up showing it on a couple of computers since we couldn't get our projector to work.) Anyway, it turns out that the Onawa library, Julie's and my favorite place to stop in and pee during the canvassing day, is where the discussion was held. Ken told us that the President has been to Onawa several times (as have all of the other candidates, I expect), and he's even had breakfast with him. Until last year Ken was a local union president, as well as being the chair of the county democratic party, so he's in on the meetings. As he told me and Julie, "they all have to suck up to the unions, of course."

Ken told us a funny story about how much personal attention Iowans expect to get from presidential candidates. He was talking to one of the democratic party members about volunteering to do something, and she said she might not be able to, as she thought it was the night that she was going to someone's house to see the president. Ken was a bit puzzled, as he didn't know anything about it. Anyway, she'd been invited to someone's house as a sort of house party to watch President Obama on TV discussing something or another, and, because it's Iowa, she just assumed he'd be there in person.

I think I'm the only volunteer that often sits in on the evening video conference that Marlene and Grady, the field officer and deputy field officer, are part of with all the other FOs and DFOs who report to Megan (because I stay anyway, usually until about 11:00 pm, to help enter the day's data). Anyway, Megan said ". . . and if we don't get that done, we're fucked. . . Oh, sorry, Kathy." Haha. Just how fucking old do they think I am? Don't answer that.