Campaigning for Obama in Ohio

4 years ago

I arrived in my hometown, Cincinnati, Friday morning. After a nap and nice lunch with my Aunt and election co-conspirator, I reported to the Walnut Hills Barack Obama campaign office. I met volunteers from Georgia, Texas, Bakersfield, all over. I was asked to make phone calls, mostly to Obama supporters, asking them to volunteer. Then I learned out to use the database system.

Early on in a campaign, there's an attempt to contact eligible voters and determine if they are supporting your candidate. If they are and they aren't registered, then an attempt is made to register them. The name, age, gender and address of every registered voter is public information. In Ohio, it's also public whether they have applied for an absentee ballot and if they have already voted in a particular election. Of course, their actual vote isn't public, but the existence of it is.

Ohio Sign, Image Credit: Shutterstock

The outcome of all calls and contacts with registered voters are entered into the campaign's database system, and each registered voter's information is updated - were they contacted, are they a supporter, are they interested in volunteering, etc. Every day fresh sheets of registered voters in various neighborhoods are printed for people who are "canvassing" (ie walking door to door and contacting voters).

At this point, the primary efforts are at contacting every registered Obama supporter who hasn't voted and get them to vote early and to volunteer, especially on Election Day. For the last three days, I've been with a partner, with lists, going door to door, explaining early voting to people and asking them to volunteer.

The contact rate is anywhere from 10-30%. I've been in almost exclusively Black (sorry, it's shorter to write than African-American) neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are very near where I grew up. I grew up in ethnically mixed public schools in Cincinnati. Well, ethinically mixed by midwestern values: white, Jewish and Black. Back then there was almost no one in our schools not born in the US, or of any Asian or Asian-adjacent country. As I knock on doors of people the same age as me I wonder if I went to school with them (terrible memory for names).

At the end of my first set of canvassing on Saturday morning, an African American man close to my age answered the door. I explained I was a volunteer out explaining about early voting. I asked if he would consider early voting - he said maybe, so I explained about it and gave him some literature. I asked him if he knew about "our" Senator, Sherrod Brown. He said, "You're not from around here, are you?" I asked why he said that. He said, "I've been voting my whole life and I know perfectly well who Sherrod Brown is, I've voted for him for years!"

I laughed and said, "Well, not everyone is as informed as you are and I'm just trying to help get him re-elected!" Then I said, "And I'll have you know, I grew up in North Avondale!" (which is very close to where he lives).

"So," he asked, "Did you go to Walnut Hills High School?" I said yes, and I asked him what year he went. He graduated the same year as my sister, knew her, and started asking me if knew this person and that person, who were all the Jewish girls in my sister's class. We started talking politics, Cincinnati, education, financial planning. My canvassing buddy kept calling, wondering where I was and what was going on!

Tomorrow I'll try to write about dogs, drunk Jehovah's Witnesses and people who want to help God get Barack Obama elected.

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