campaigning in ohio - dispatch #3

for starters: i finally got some photos of this nutty ohio TRIP up onto flickr. a photographer i am surely not, but hey. everyone has gone to bed and the house is quiet. i can't sleep. not because i'm wired up but more because i'm wired down. oddly. tomorrow is our Grand Finale -- the last day for one-stop early voting. and unlike my counterparts who are each, in their own way, nursing pangs of anticipation and anxiety about it all, i feel fine. plans have been laid, teams prepped, assignments assigned. in a way, it's all out of our hands now. yet in another, we carry it all.

so how has the week gone for
our humble project? the numbers tell part of the story: several hundred the first day to almost a thousand on friday. the weekend stats are weird, given that so many EVCs (early voting centers) were closed half or all day. our teams did lots of visibility work when EVCs were closed, like flyering cars and postering shelters and what my team dubbed 'the dorm storms' -- targeting students with sign-ups for monday rides.

the trajectory of numbers has been promising, to be sure, though not necessarily what we'd projected. the exercise of identifying any numeric targets had been arbitrary, at best. that's the trick about inventing a brand new thing -- you have nothing to compare it to, no lessons to correct, and everything to gain. early voting is a new concept in and of itself, never mind the fact that this 'golden week' portion of it was the first time (ever? anywhere?) voters could register and vote at the same time. so when
tate conceived of and initiated this idea, he also took on the task of making everything up. from scratch. sure, he assembled a dynamo team to do it with, but still, no one knew what to shoot for... at least not in comparative terms. that's not to sound defensive. i'm just sharing those realities of field organizing that anyone who's done it can relate to.

in spite of those deeper matters, our teams and activities have been rocking. it took a couple of days to hit our stride, but once we did, that shit got HOT. from allied groups to average voters, everyone can feel it. and they're buzzing about it. reports from the field have all ended the same way: "this thing is gaining momentum, and tomorrow, we're gonna do even better!"

in addition to my regional director role, i've been put on a bit of press officer duty -- and
we've been getting covered! -- so i've had lots of occasion to think and talk about this project. the thing i keep reminding folks is that we can only track numbers of voters we physically take to the polls. but those don't reflect the thousands of ohioans who learned about early voting thanks to our visibility, materials, media, and people, then took themselves to vote. there's no telling how many voters hurried up and registered because Our Work reminded them that tomorrow is the last day. that's not spin, that's fact.

so we're feeling stoked and proud and energized about it all. the whole concept of early voting still blows my mind. and you just know it came at too crucial a political moment in too tense a place because those other guys
tried to shut it down. unsuccessfully. but it still makes folks nervous that this could be the only year for early voting because some people are too antsy about it -- likely because it favours the types of folks whose voices are mostly unheard.

meanwhile, it has been tremendously rewarding to help mobilize the very people whose belief in democracy will most benefit from this early voting scheme. amy, our field director, has been comparing our one week initiative to a single election day -- which means tomorrow (last day) is like the final hour of a typical e-day. no holds barred blitz, baby. overdrive. full steam. home run. analogy-palooza, basically. we're gunning for some SERIOUS VOTES.

the teams i've been overseeing couldn't be more ready for tomorrow. they've pimped up the vans like nobody's business, and even rented a major megaphone system for one of them to be blaring loud and clear "last chance to register and vote early". people here at headquarters have been teasing me about the crushes i seem to have developed on my team leaders out there, but with them turning out such kick-ass organizing skills and energy day in and day out, who the eff can blame me?

btw, saw springsteen (again) today -- he stopped in columbus as part of a
special tour for obama. it was an incredible acoustic set under a beautiful, warm, fall sky. granted, we worked the crowds for van sign-ups and whatnot, but still, it sure felt nice to take a break from the frenzy to enjoy a simple outdoor concert. i may not be his biggest fan, but it has to be said The Boss has never sounded better. more importantly, he gave what has to be one of the best (albeit inadvertent) political speech i have maybe ever heard. no speechwriters, no tele-prompter, no spin. just a poet with heart, movingly imploring ohioans to grab hold of the early voting advantage as a way to get obama elected because "i want my america back. i want my country back."


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