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It's pretty much a given that those of you reading this entry have been asked at some point to volunteer for the Obama campaign in your local area or via emails. Most of you, like myself, have probably never found the time, or felt intimidated by the concept of knocking on strangers' doors or calling them at home, expecting a potentially hostile reaction.

I want to try and change that for those of you still debating the idea. There's more to volunteering than just knocking on doors and making calls. Some of you might even have been canvassing, and wondered what happens to all that information you're notating as you wander the neighbourhoods.  

You're looking at her.

One of her, anyway.

I'm a data entry volunteer for the Obama campaign in Hamilton, and here's what I do.

Data Entry? It sure doesn't sound real glamorous, does it? But data entry is the lifeblood of the local campaigns here. Every canvassing packet that goes out and comes back has to be entered in by a human being; every 'Not Home', every 'Refused', every 'Early Vote' has to be tallied and entered into the massive voter database.

I didn't have a clue what I was getting into the first night I showed up with my husband at the HQ here over a week ago; I have a terrible phone phobia and social anxiety to some degree, so I immediately asked if there was anything, anything I could do that was not related to having to talk to strangers.

It took perhaps a few minutes to show me how to enter the information, and the next thing I knew, I was already done with my list and asking for more, much to the surprise - and shameless gratitude - of the campaign staff. Within one night, I'd been designated as a voracious Data Queen, and that, as they say, was that.

It's been that constant gratitude and great vibe that's kept me coming back, night after night and on the weekends ever since. It certainly may seem like scut work, but it's vital scut work - scut work that means the paid staffers get an extra hour or two of sleep at night so they can make those important volunteer recruitment calls during the day. It's scut work that's vital, because, like tonight, as I got done making the midnight data entry deadline, it determines who's getting a call back again, who's getting a canvasser coming back to ask if you've made that early vote like you promised, if someone's going to contact you if you said you'd give an hour or two, or takes a person out of the database altogether.

Sure, it's scut work - but it's scut work that makes a difference, and I'm more than happy to spend four hours or more a night doing it. Last Saturday I and my husband entered the equivalent of a ream of paper in canvass results. In one evening.

The local support has been fantastic. Almost every evening I've been in the office, someone has brought in food or drink for the staff - because these guys don't get time to really eat properly otherwise. There've been crockpots of shredded chicken, apple cobbler, vegetable lasagna... and it's all been fabulous.

The upbeat vibe contributes to a hearty cameraderie among the staff, and a lot of mutual teasing. One such example is Louis, who I've already come to nickname, 'Sock Boy', thanks to his tendency to store his rolled-up socks in his temporarily-assigned desk drawer. My mock-outraged demands as to why precisely I found a pair in the marker tray a couple of nights ago (Me: "What is up with you and socks?" Louis: "What? Have you been in my drawer?!" Louis facially flails and makes a beeline for his desk. "I didn't NEED TO! You left your socks in the marker tray! WHAT THE F*** IS WRONG WITH YOU?! That's gross! Seriously!") have led to what's become an ongoing war of sock-throwing across the admittedly somewhat cramped office space.

Laptops are a precious and sparse commodity at the office, and this frequently leads to having to use an irritatingly small EEEPC, which might be good for... something I haven't discovered yet, because it sure as hell sucks to try and enter data with one. Never use these things!

I consider myself extremely blessed to have found such a great, motivated bunch of people, committed to the cause in this battleground state. More importantly, this experience is something I will remember, regardless of its outcome, for the rest of my life. I, for all my social anxiety issues, have managed to create my own niche here, an enoyable one, and I will greatly miss the people involved when this is all said and done.

But not the socks.

Well. Maybe just a little.

Go on. Take an hour out of your day, head on down to your local Democratic branch, and see what volunteering can do for you.

Originally posted to alryssa on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 11:11 PM PDT.

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