CEM is excited to be bringing you dispatches from Indiana from our intern Christina Arrison, who is working with the Obama campaign. This is the third in the series.
The Night Before
This is going to be a short one because I’m about to hop into bed to snatch a few hours rest before going back in tomorrow to canvass. The crazy Obama staffers are still at the office getting packets together for tomorrow, but they turned down offers of help so I got to come home to bed. They are going out at 3am to hang flyers on supporters’ houses so they’ll be there first thing in the morning when everyone leaves for work. I’ll be going in around 6 to do some visibility, which can be pretty fun – standing at busy intersections with campaign signs and waving them around. I’m not sure how many votes it actually gets, but I guess any publicity is good, and maybe it will remind people to get to the polls.
Today was surprisingly uneventful for a day just before an election. I knocked on doors in a neighborhood where about a quarter of the houses on my list were empty. I wonder where all of those people went to. I’m sure that many of them moved for benign reasons, but I couldn’t help but think about the foreclosure crisis all day. That got me thinking about the many subtle, indirect ways that people can be disenfranchised. Home foreclosure of course wouldn’t prohibit someone from voting, but it does mean that the voter probably won’t receive any information from the campaigns, and switching your address for voter registration is probably the last thing on your mind if you’re dealing with the trauma of losing a home. In Indiana if you moved more than 29 days before the election and didn’t officially change the registration record you can’t vote at your old precinct. There’s also the fact that this state requires photo identification and proof of residence to vote, which low income, young, and elderly voters are much less likely to have. The recent Supreme Court decision that upholds the legality of such requirements means that even more states will probably establish similar laws. On a smaller scale, the fact that many lower income voters live in apartment complexes means that it’s harder for canvassers to go talk to them, and personal contact at a door is one of the most effective ways of getting people out to vote. Last but not least, of course, there’s the fact that the polls are only open until 6pm at night. And unlike many states, Indiana doesn’t have a law mandating that employees must receive enough time off to vote, if their work schedule would otherwise prohibit them from going to the polls.
Rather than close on that note, though, I should mention that tonight I was lucky enough to go to a huge rally downtown. We were all packed onto the American Legion mall in downtown Indianapolis. A local radio station put the attendance at more than 20,000, and the energy of the crowd was palpable. Stevie Wonder made a guest appearance, opening the rally with three songs which he played to the end despite a sudden downpour during the third number. The crowd held despite the several bursts of rain, and Senator Obama delivered a fiery version of his stump speech. It was a positive way to end the day and hopefully a good omen for tomorrow. The bulk of the work has been done now – tomorrow it’s only what is called "knock and drag," where you knock on doors until you find someone who says they’re planning on voting and you bring them yourself to the polling location. And so now to get some practice in, I’m going to knock off writing and drag myself to bed.