Well, sort of.
I will readily admit I did not do enough for the Obama campaign. Maslow tends to kick my ass. What I had was about $50 for gas, some training, and some time. And that's really all one needs to have one's voice heard 8 or 9 times, probably more.
I did not cast a single ballot yesterday. I voted last week in Illinois. But I can say with certainty that 8 or 9 votes for President Elect Obama were cast in Ohio and they would not have been cast if not for my efforts.
But it goes beyond that. Through the combined efforts of just a few people, President Elect Obama probably received upwards of 100 votes out of a single polling location that he would not have received without those few people.
So how did I and we do it? Quite simple. I engaged voters going into and coming out of a polling place, and I was able to identify about a dozen citizens who tried to vote but were turned away because they were in the wrong precinct. A few of them were angry, but determined, and set out, on foot or to the bus, bound and determined to get to where they needed to be and have their voice heard at the ballot box.
But about 8 or 9 of these people were completely distraught, because they didn't have the time or ability to get to the place where they needed to be to cast their ballot and have it counted. Realities of life were kicking these people's ass, but the Obama campaign was there to create a new reality for these folks.
You see, they had me, and I had people to call who were ready, willing, and able to drive to 'my' poll, take a stranger into their vehicle, and get them where they needed to be. Sure there is no way to know for sure, but in all probability, about 8 or 9 of the voters who found themselves in the wrong place, would not have voted yesterday if there was not a friendly face there and the support of an amazing organization.
So why probably more? We'll start with the black Escalade that screeched up to the poll at about 5:50 a.m. and the death glare the driver shot at the two dozen people already lined up waiting for the polls to open. We'll add to it the same black Escalade that circled the block two or three times yesterday morning.
You see, there was someone there to shoot a death glare, and a sly smile, right back. There was someone there to 'intimidate' the intimidator, and that someone was me. Perhaps in another year, the Escalade driving Dennis Hastert look alike would have emerged from his gas guzzling monstrosity and brought his death glare, and attending verbal threats, up tight and personal. Perhaps there were a few more voters yesterday that would have been intimidated in elections past. Not this year. Not this time.
And perhaps in years past, when a frantic woman who just voted in a different polling place despite tremendous difficulties, would not have found someone willing to address her concerns when she screeched up to my poll. But I was there, and I had people to call to get boots on the ground and get that other polling place up to speed. Perhaps the quick action of this citizen and myself saved a handful of votes. Perhaps it saved a few dozen.
And perhaps in years past the two horse mounted police officers that just happened to amble up to the polling place would have stayed there for more than a few minutes. Perhaps they would have stayed all day. But you see, in this predominately AA neighborhood, there was a chatty, overly friendly Opie Taylor looking fellow from Illinois that just wouldn't shut up and became annoying as hell. And perhaps that is what made those two mounted officers amble away on their steeds. And maybe, just maybe a few of those folks who were making their way to the polls kept going. Maybe, just maybe, instead of turning away from a situation they would normally find intimidating, they continued on with their quest because the intimidating element was killed with kindness and removed from the voting environment.
So how do we get to 100 voters at one polling place? Well it wasn't just me. An amazing woman attorney was on the inside of the poll too. Late in my day I was approached by a poll worker who had seen me out there all day but did not know who I was. I explained that I was the outside part of the team and the amazing woman attorney was the inside part, and the poll worker told me that things would just not have been the same without the help of that amazing woman attorney.
And then the amazing woman attorney came out about a half hour before the polls closed, and said how amazing the young, energetic poll workers had been throughout the day. How they used efforts extraordinary to her past experiences to ensure that citizens who belonged there cast ballots that would be counted, and citizens who didn't belong there were directed to the right polling place, and encouraged to make that extra effort to cast their ballots, even if they had to drive across town.
After the polls closed yesterday, I decided to give myself a little treat. I got in my car, set the cruise control on 79, and pointed by old Civic toward Chicago. The area around Middlebury, Indiana must still be echoing with my shout of joy, as that is where I was when CBS called Ohio for Obama. The intersection of Columbus and Congress Parkway, Chicago, Illinois will ever be etched in my mind as the place where I could clearly hear President Elect Barack Obama speak two paragraphs before ending his speech to me and a quarter million (at least) of my closest friends. I would have loved to have heard the entire thing, but the sound of his voice echoing off the buildings lining Michigan Avenue as I walked and walked and got as close as I could had a certain resonance that will always fill my heart and mind.
But despite just experiencing the second most uplifting day in my entire life, second only to the birth of my daughter, I remain cynical. Perhaps it's just the Cubs fan coming out, but I see that 47% of the electorate still sips the tainted Kool-Aid. I see Senate races in Minnesota and Georgia and Oregon that probably would not be where they are at right now if there were an army of Opie Taylor looking fellows from Illinois in the Twin Cities, in Atlanta, and in Portland saying 'don't forget to vote for Franken/Martin/Merkley.'
We accomplished a great thing, but it could have been more. Please, next election, take off work. Sign up to be a poll worker, and if you have any related skills, sign up to be a poll observer in a battleground race. Or fill up the mini-van and drive people around, or bring food to people like the Opie Taylor looking fellow from Illinois. Whatever your personality and temperment, there is a role for you on election day larger than merely casting your vote.
The efforts of about 5 or 6 people probably meant 100 more votes for Obama yesterday in one polling place. We have made great strides in making sure everyone who wants to vote gets to vote and every vote that is cast is counted, but there is always more we can do to make this a more perfect democratic republic.