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voter registration drive
Working the ground game to register new voters
Of all the netizen activists I know, there are very few whom I respect more than Marta Evry.

You may have seen her diaries here under the byline of msblucow. Her blogging at Venice For Change has a significant influence on local politics in the Los Angeles area, and politicians and candidates either love her or fear her. If they're smart, they do both at the same time. Marta is a wizard behind the lens of a camera, and if I use one more of her photos for my Facebook profile, I have every confidence she'll start charging me for the privilege. I've seen her photos drive entire narratives for campaigns in a way only the most iconic visual imagery can do.

But what sets Marta apart from many others is the recognition of a simple fact: No matter what happens online, the essence of being a community organizer usually involves getting off of the blogs and into the streets. That's why every two years, she organizes a voter registration drive at a well-attended local streets festival in her neighborhood of Venice, California.

No matter how large a voice one may have online, there really isn't anything quite like the feeling of helping a new citizen register and see the excitement in his face about knowing that he'll be able to have a voice in American civic discourse. Few things can rival telling a felon that no matter what the law is in Arizona, out in the Golden State we let people who have paid their debt to society and are off parole have a voice in our democracy again, and seeing the tear in his eye because you told him what nobody else would. Even something as mundane as helping someone who won't be in town on election day get a ballot abroad is incredibly rewarding. Between Marta, me and the dozen other volunteers working the booth that day, we registered over four hundred people. That is four hundred people who may not have gotten the chance to cast a ballot otherwise: Four hundred different stories, ranging from people who had moved across the world to people who had moved across the street, and all eager for the opportunity to vote for the people they want to represent them from the highest office in the land to the lowest office on the ballot.

Now, some may say that it doesn't really matter in deep-blue California: After all, Barack Obama will win the state easily, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein will coast to reelection without lifting a finger. But there is so much more than just the top of the ticket: In the Venice area alone, for instance, longtime Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman is being challenged by a Republican-turned-independent who is spending millions to try to buy a seat in Congress. Just next door to the South is the swing Assembly District Democrats will need to win if we are to gain the super-majority we need to actually govern the state. And even in a state as large as California, we know that grassroots efforts to register and educate progressive voters could make the difference between whether the odious Proposition 32 passes and takes away the voices of working men and women in the state, or whether Democrats and progressive of all stripes beat back this right-wing affront to democracy.

vote-by-mail promotional graphic
Consider the convenience of voting by mail this November.
Even more than that, we encouraged as many of our new registrants as possible to register as "permanent vote-by-mail" voters. Under California law, all of these new voters—many of whom will have been motivated by President Obama—will receive a ballot in the mail every single election, which dramatically increases their chances of voting in state and local elections and becoming better-informed about what is happening in their communities.

Not every state has the same laws and deadlines as we do on the West Coast, and some deadlines have unfortunately already passed. But even if there is absolutely no contested issue you can think of at any level this upcoming November, consider spending whatever time your state laws still allow to get out on the ground and get new voters signed up to participate in the fundamental exercise of democracy. You might find it to be a reward in and of itself.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good to hear this (16+ / 0-)

    And, it is good to hear the work Marta is doing.
    However, I am concerned. I have been tabling on my campus for the last 4 weeks and the level of student interest/concern is extremely low.  California is not a swing state in the presidential election, but we have two very close Congressional seats and two vital propositions; Prop. 30 that would fund public education and the universities in this time of crisis, and Prop. 32 –an open assault on labor Wisconsin style  I estimate political interest and participation among California  students at 1/20th. of what it was in 2008.  This estimate is based upon response to voter registration and persons asking for and accepting literature on the propositions.  It is so crass that students could actually vote themselves a $495 rebate on their tuition – but there is scant interest.
    Here is a reasonably well developed view of why the student interest level is so low.  My Vote Doesn’t Matter,
      So, we too are working the streets. Our blog is
    And, I agree with the essay on My Vote Doesn't matter, that we need to work from hope.

    In part the generation that came of age in the time of austerity has learned to not expect much from voting and government.  After all, the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement were projects of their grandparents.  And, it has been a very long time since organized labor gave us much to cheer about.  ( The UFW in the 60’s- 70’s)  How much engagement did you get from your grandparents’ struggles ?
    My question is there something others are doing  that its working? – besides writing a blog post?  What can we do in the last 3 weeks?   We have a local  organization with 6,000 facebook members, what would work ? And, what can we do  to prepare for the important conflict of the fiscal crisis in November and December?

  •  Wow. Dante, I'm speechless.... (19+ / 0-)

    I had no idea you were going to write this. Two thoughts:

    1) blush

    2) None of this happens in a vacuum. Seriously....I could be Super Awesome Woman and it wouldn't mean a thing if no one else stepped up to the plate to do their part.  

    It takes a village.....over, and over and over do the heavy lifting, the grunt work, to get shit done.

    Marta Evry
    Community Organizer
    follow me on twitter: @venice4change

  •  Thx and yes on 34 (5+ / 0-)

    really appreciate what you are doing.  Loathesome prop 32 has to go down.  Fortunately getting the feeling that people are on to what a lie it is.  At least I hope so.


  •  Oh man I just missed Obama in my hometown! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yella dawg, divineorder, dkosdan

    obama made phone calls and brought pizza to the OFA office I've canvassed out of! I was just there yesterday!
    Talk about ground game!!!

  •  Okay.... (4+ / 0-)

    Reading this diary, I marked my absentee ballot (permanent absentee) which I will mail tomorrow.

    For luck, I affixed one of my last Gregory Peck stamps.

    Just out of curiosity, how are people in Los Angeles voting on Measure B?  

    by the way, in Los Angeles you can check if your ballot arrived at the following website...

    (you can also register online at this link.)

  •  Face to face matters. I miss it this year... (6+ / 0-)

    ...having moved from my long-time digs in Los Angeles to just south of Bay Area. I'll be doing some phone banking, but I haven't yet caught up with local organizing in my new region.

    In L.A., beginning with the Gray Davis recall, and angered but energized by the lack of help from Democratic HQ, five of us ran a 100+ precinct operation that expanded turnout among Democrats, registered new voters, raised significant amounts of money for candidates and sparked numerous people who had wanted to be involved but weren't spurred to do so into becoming active.

    Several didn't just do it in electoral politics but got involved on issue actions as well.

    Next year, I hope to be back at it.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:03:44 PM PDT

  •  Brand New Nationwide Poll: Obama 47%, Romney 44% (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hungrycoyote, dkosdan

    A NewsmaxZogby Poll of 863 likely voters taken on Friday and Saturday show President Barack Obama in a dead heat with GOP challenger Governor Mitt Romney – Obama 47% to Romney 44%. Nine percent are undecided. The nationwide online poll has a margin of error of +/-3.4 points.

    Still the game is won on the ground.

    Oracle2021: Reality according to Mitt Romney "Why tell the truth when a lie will suffice...the bigger the lie the bigger the pay off"

    by Oracle2021 on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:17:33 PM PDT

  •  I spent all day today phone banking here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dkosdan, maryru, Odysseus

    in Florida. I made over 300 calls and talked to 103 people. As much as I enjoy writing here, I feel like I'm doing more good for this election by actually volunteering my time at the OFA field office.

    “Mitt Romney is the only person in America who looked at the way this Congress is behaving and said, ‘I want the brains behind THAT operation.’ ” — Tom Perriello

    by hungrycoyote on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:19:58 PM PDT

  •  Another vote (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    msblucow, dkosdan

    for Marta!

    Your efforts are much appreciated. So many of us are eager to pitch; your leadership & organization provide us with the opportunity to show up and get to it.

    So let's get to it!

    Nice diary, Dante.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    by vernonlee on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:25:03 PM PDT

  •  I'll never forget the first new voter I registered (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It was about a year ago, on the first massive day of action the Obama campaign had in Florida. It was only my second time registering voters (the first time I collected two forms, both address changes). He had a Spanish accent and was leaving the public library with his baby daughter, and he said he had never voted before. It was the best feeling in the world, and probably the moment I first became addicted to organizing.

    "No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters." --Elizabeth Warren

    by foreverblue on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:26:20 PM PDT

  •  Another hero to emulate. If we had a million (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    like her! Let's hope someday we all have this energy and dedication.

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Shakespeare, Henry V

    by Wildthumb on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 06:31:58 PM PDT

  •  GOTV needed in FL . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, dkosdan

    PPP says Romney got a net 5 point bounce and now leads by 1.

  •  A few weeks ago I applied online for (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jim in IA, dkosdan

    a permanent vote by mail for me and my husband. We have always voted in person and have ALWAYS voted. We wanted our grandchildren to have a good example. We always take at least one of them with us into the booth.

    However, this year the 14 year old has decided that he's too old to be caught dead with his grandparents and the other two are going with their other grandparents. So we decided to become mail in voters. We voted yesterday.

    Now for the scary part: the 14 year old reminded us today that he'll be able to vote in the next presidential election!!!! ARRGGHHHH!!!!

  •  Iowa is a hotly contested state for the 6 votes. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dante Atkins, dkosdan, maryru

    Our OFA local teams are working our butts off every week to get as many early vote by mails cast as possible. We are well ahead of the pace in 2008.

    In 08 there was excitement for ridding ourselves of bush. The prospect of Barack Obama was exciting. He was new, different, smart, able to speak clearly and intelligently.

    This year, the voters see more of an urgency to NOT let the rcans grab the office. And, especially to not let them have the house and senate both. To do so would set us back 100 years. It would break and destroy democracy. It is already happening in the eyes of many Iowa voters.

    We will not rest. We are exhausted. But, the alternative is awful.

    Great power comes from great d(Energy)/d(t)

    by jim in IA on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 07:20:31 PM PDT

  •  Your title had me searching YouTube (0+ / 0-)

    ..For Neil Young vids. Out of the blue and into the black.

    Damn. I had the 33 1/3 record album. Learned Morse code in junior high.

    Sure left a bag of shit for the next generation and the one after that.

    Gordon Gekko as President? Backstreet Boy man-hooker bullshit artist as Veep?


    Perhaps one day the Fourth Estate will take their jobs seriously. Or not.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Oct 14, 2012 at 09:46:26 PM PDT

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