Saturday, September 20, 2008

Canvassing Concord

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead

I was reminded of this well-known quote this morning as I listened with about a dozen other volunteers (mostly from Massachusetts) to a pep talk on canvassing  at the Barack Obama campaign office in Concord, New Hampshire. Although I had canvassed last Saturday in Keene, NH, I arrived there late and didn't get much of a briefing. I was assigned to work with an experienced local volunteer that time, so learning "on the job" worked out fine. But some of the tips in the briefing today were useful, especially the info about voter registration rules in NH (you can pre-register up to 10 days before the election, but you can also register at the polls on Election Day).

Canvassing is not rocket science - you get a list of voters and a neighborhood map, you drive to the neighborhood, walk around and knock on doors, introduce yourself, and have a conversation about the election. The key points are "who will you vote for?" and if you are an Obama suporter, will you consider volunteering yourself? It's actually pretty good fun in the few cases where the voter is actually home, especially supporters and undecided voters who are willing to talk with you. Usually I just encourage these voters to check on a few things on the web, especially the facts about who would benefit from the Obama and McCain tax plans (by income level), and about McCain's health insurance plan (employer-provided insurance benefits would be taxed as income in McCain's plan, among other strange and problematic features - check this analysis of the McCain plan).  This was only my second day canvassing for Obama, and it went pretty well. I also spent an hour back at the office calling voters, which went better than my calls from home have gone this past week (perhaps calling from a NH area code is part of the reason).

Being part of this small group of thoughtful, committed citizens today was a good feeling. The local campaign staffers told us that with so many volunteers coming into New Hampshire to help the local volunteers, they are reaching many thousands of voters in person and on the phone, identifying supporters, adding more volunteers, and preparing for the big get-out-the-vote push on Election Day. 

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