Getting out the Florida vote

Election 2004 | Access/Network
I have good news from the battleground front here in South Florida. I canvassed yesterday, and some more today. And I skipped the party tonight to rest up to canvas tomorrow. I can fly home Monday or Wednesday. I’m confident that we’re going to win, and now it’s merely a question of whom I want to party with.

Thankfully I already voted absentee Massachusetts– an “early voting” if you will. I walked into Brookline Town Hall before going to the airport, and they gave me one, where it took my two minutes to fill in about five bubbles. I love the paper ballot. The early voting in Florida, as it is publicized for all, has taken people 2 hours. I flew down here to Florida to go door-to-door to ensure that people were still going to vote. True, I only work with a list of registered Democrats and Independents, but we don’t have all day and we have to leave certain people off our routes (e.g., Republicans).

In spite of the advertised aim of Operation Bubbe to focus on the Jewish grandmother vote in Palm Beach county, we’ve reached a broad spectrum of Democrats here. I did go to a mostly Jewish neighborhood in Delray on Saturday; today I was in to two opposite ends of Boca Raton — a diverse, lower-income neighborhood inland, and the ritzy high-rise community on the beach. The latter was a complete wash; it appears that we’re factoring in the local real estate a bit late in the game. If you have money, you don’t need have for pesky little canvassers exercising their first amendment rights on your property, and secondly, you don’t stay undecided till this late in the election. And you certainly don’t stick around Halloween night to trouble with any visitors.

But as for the rest of America, many of them seem to appreciate the genuine outreach. This is a real live person of the campaign coming to their door to to just make sure that they vote. Other of my peers down here report that Floridians are troubled by the constant contact. I just try to be as friendly as possible and just gain people’s confidence. Some I tell that I’ve showed up merely to correct some data on a mailing list, which is often the case.

Our group here is associate with America Coming Together (ACT), which means are there to provide voting information and not allowed to ask people to vote for a candidate. And I do not, unless someone presses me on how I personally voted after having asked them the same question. Most people can get a sense of who I’m supporting by what I am conspicuously outfitted in: a New York Yankees cap and one of my Boston T-shirts. (When some people point out this seeming contradiction, I show them that I am indeed wearing flip-flops on my feet). If they’re voting for Bush, they don’t talk to me any more time then they need to, and bid me farewell. The exception was a snowbird who had come to Florida earlier than expected– a surprise to his downstairs neighbor, I learned– perhaps to vote. An even bigger surprise was his learning that I had not just come down from Massachusetts to Florida to ask for people’s votes, but that I had paid my own way.

My tact has been that I ask three questions in succession: Do you know when you’re voting? Where you’re voting? And do you know you’re voting for? The first two are to meet ACT’s prima facie mission of getting out the vote. Maybe a couple people out of a hundred we’ve encountered are new to their neighborhoods and need a refresher on this. And a little more than that tell me they’re still undecided. I ask if they’re leaning one way or another, and whether there’s any issues that can help them sort things out. I have “literature” in my hand, which is “literature” in the sense that the Fox News is “journalism”. I’d give out said literature if would make a particular difference, but in all cases two minutes of personal contact makes more of an impression than a piece of paper.

Like a laywer or a psychologist, I just let people lay out what they know, how they feel, and I help them sort through the facts. This takes no more than a few minutes. The ACT people instruct us to “move on” (popular slogan, no?) to the next door, but like all the other volunteers, I have a heroic complex. Each one of us came down to try and persuade a few voters to get out and vote (hopefully for our guy). And if an extra minute helps it does. I know I’ve persuaded a few voters– that is, I made them feel confident about their decision.

For the people say they are undecided and leaning Kerry, I tell them that they are in the majority: historically most undecideds break for the challenger. Some mention a particular single-issue which is pressing their vote, and I merely advise them to take all the issues in consideration when they come to vote.

The unending war on terrorism, amplified by the recent Osama bin Laden video, is the X factor which may still dampen the historical trend of the undecideds. One woman had in fact mentioned this “latest video” as a reason she felt sorry for Bush. I realized at that point I was wholly ignorant of the latest minor developments in the news (and for a mere 24 hours; just the day before on the flight down I watched the live televised Pentagon spin conference about the Al Qaqaa explosives). Undaunted, I let the woman talk some more, letter her air her concerns about the economy, health care, and matters important to what Americans care about. I told her that’s how I had determined by vote, and I wasn’t letting bin Laden or any foreigner make me vote one way or the other. I also told her that I flew all the way from Boston to do this. Her eyes grew to the size of Florida grapefruits. And she said she’d bring her mother out to vote after all.

I have much more to say about the fascinating people I’m working with, the ways which Floridians can hang their orchids in delightful arrangements outside their homes, as well as how a Nissan Altima effortlessly transcends the speed limit suggestions on Florida’s I-95 as I’ve transcended the McCain-Feingold laws on campaign coordination. But hey, we’ve got an election to win: and may the best man win it. And you know damned well who the best man is.

November 14th correction: The initial version of this piece referred to ACT as “America’s Coming Together”. I have dropped the ‘s.
Follow-up pieces about the Florida campaign:
  • November 8th: Report from the battleground that wasn’t
  • November 10th: Canvassing in God’s Country: Assessing the Religious Divide
  • November 14th: Going Canvassing: How to Prepare
  • November 21st: Is an uncoordinated Presidential campaign in our best interest?
  • Read the Posting Guidelines
  • ViewPoints
  • Login/register to post
  • Response summary: 1 comments, 1 Viewpoints
       1             1
    yo john abegreene Nov 11 ’04 3:19AM