Participation Really Matters

When I woke up on Election Day, I was undecided about what I would do for the day.  Would I go to work, or, would I do something to help with the Obama/Biden Campaign?  I’d already voted, but I had yet to volunteer my time in any organized way.

The day before I had run into a friend who was very active in the campaign; she and her 21 year-old son had been out canvassing reminding people to vote.  I thought “good for them.”  My brother had been using his status as a lawyer to get involved in overseeing fair voting in FLORIDA.  I thought “good for him.”  I learned my sister, in Nashville, was calling places like Fla. and North Carolina, to encourage people to get to the polls.  I thought “good for her.”  My mom got in the act in Western NC which was good.  It was all good enough to make me think I should do something…maybe.

I was still undecided as I got into my car, when an errand–paying the cell phone bill–took me to the same plaza where the local Democratic headquarters was stationed.  That did it.  So, I stopped in and found out where I could be of help.  One staging area happened to be in my neighborhood.

When I arrived, I was given a stack of door hangers with voting information on them, and a list of supposed (I’ll get back to that in a moment) Obama-supporters who hadn’t yet voted.  With a map in hand, off I went.  The first four stops turned out to be a good representation of what I would face throughout the day:

  1. The person answered the door and told me she had just returned from voting;
  2. The person answered the door and told me that they had already voted…and were McCain supporters…oops.  Unfortunately I had a fair share of these encounters–all congenial, but I wish the data had been a bit tighter.
  3. The person who answered the door was the father of the 18 year-old on my list, and he assured me that she was very excited about voting, once she got home from classes.
  4. No one answered, and so I left an information placard on the door.
  5. Throughout the course of the day, I had a handful of encounters with folks who hadn’t yet voted, who said they were planning to, and maybe to whom I gave a boost of encouragement.

After two rounds of lists, my day was done, and it was time to wait out the day to hear the results.  The good news was, that all the canvassers from this staging location were able to complete our lists.

When it was first reported that Obama had captured Ohio, it was hard to truly believe; way too many shenanigans in past elections.  But as it settled into reality, and John McCain conceded, and Barack Obama gave his incredibly poignant–and truly presidential–victory speech, I stood back in amazement.  I also took a look at the numbers from our local county’s board of elections.  Here was the margin in our county:

 President and Vice-President
          Vote For One (1)  1
              (WITH 215 OF 215 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
           Chuck Baldwin/Darrell L. Castle (CON) .       250     .22
           Bob Barr/Wayne Allyn Root (LIB) .  .  .       365     .33
           Richard Duncan/Ricky Johnson .  .  .  .        83     .07
           John McCain/Sarah Palin (REP).  .  .  .    54,441   48.87
           Cynthia McKinney/Rosa A. Clemente (GRE)       145     .13
           Brian Moore/Stewart Alexander (SOC).  .        27     .02
           Ralph Nader/Matt Gonzalez .  .  .  .  .       999     .90
           Barack Obama/Joe Biden (DEM) .  .  .  .    54,786   49.18
           WRITE-IN.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .       313     .28

Do the math: 54786 – 54441 = 345 voters, and .9% of the vote.

I have no idea if I influenced anyone to vote who for one reason or another had decided not to on that day.  But my imagination allows me to think that maybe, my time was worth it.  AND, whether or not I had any impact, I know for sure that all those canvassers who went before me in the days, weeks, and months leading up to this historic day in our nation, really did make this happen.

Kudos to President-elect Community Organizer, because it worked, and I truly came to understand just how much even a little bit of participation in the process really does matter.

May joy fill your day today, and may our Union be much more perfected in the four (if not eight) years to come!  Peace.