Democratic Underground

Volunteering to Win
July 27, 2001
by Lynne M. Sin

I remember November 7th, 2000; I'm sure none of us will ever forget that date. To be honest, this was the first presidential election in over a decade that I really didn't make the effort to help campaign for our candidate. It wasn't that I didn't support Al Gore, it was just that I found excuses that kept me from helping out with the local campaign. Other than a half-hearted attempt to help the democratic candidate for senator in Pennsylvania (a conservative pro-life candidate with a poorly financed campaign and little support statewide); I basically was non-existent throughout the 2000 fall campaign season.

But the DNC did keep in touch with me and asked if I would be available on Election Day to help get the vote out. The volunteer that contacted me explained that they were trying to get as many volunteers into the "Swing States" (states still too close to call for either presidential candidate) and help get the voters to the polls. DNC knew that if they were to win Pennsylvania for Al Gore, they had to have high voter turnout in both Pittsburgh & Philadelphia since in the middle of Pennsylvania is like "rural Alabama". So I took the day off from work and headed to the DNC Headquarters in Philadelphia.

What I saw that day amazed me, several hundred volunteers descended upon Philadelphia. As I walked around and introduced myself to the various volunteers, I found that many of them were from outside our state. One gentleman was a union member from New Jersey and their group had sent three busloads of members to help out in our state. There were groups of volunteers who drove up from Delaware, Maryland & Virginia and more groups that came from New York. There was even one family that made the trek from Oregon. From our meeting place in Center City Philadelphia, the DNC sent a large portion of the volunteers to the Great Northeast of Philadelphia - a Republican stronghold.

Our goal was simple; to knock on door of every registered Democrat and remind them to get out and vote. From the Northeast Headquarters we were divided into smaller groups. Those of us familiar with Philadelphia took with us out of state volunteers. We were given a district to canvas and we were armed with brochures we could hang on doors and phone numbers to hand out for those needing help to get to the booth. I worked with a family from the suburbs, a mother who took her kids out of school that day. As we knocked on doors, she told me about how she felt this would be a historical day and that her children could experience first hand American History and Civics.

Because of our efforts, we had high voter turnout in Philadelphia which ensured a victory for Al Gore. But the greatest story was what happened in the Great Northeast section of Philadelphia. A Republican State Senator had represented the section we canvassed for 18 years. This year the Democratic challenger narrowly defeated him. Maybe that's not headline news, but it does show the power of getting out the vote. Maybe the folks in the Greater Northeast were tired of this representative, maybe there was a small scandal; however, I'd like to think that the extra efforts made by the volunteers in that area helped get the few extra votes needed to ensure victory for his Democratic challenger. This is what happens when volunteers work together to get out the vote.

With every story there is a lesson to be learned and I hope the message that you take with you is to get out and volunteer. Bush & Cronies may define volunteers by the size of their wallets, but no amount of money can replace the power of people determined to get out on the streets and remind folks it's time to vote. In 2001, we have the perfect opportunity to get in practice for the upcoming elections in 2002 & 2004. New Jersey and Virginia both have major elections this year for Governor and both are prime opportunities for Democrats to band together and get to more governor chairs filled by Democrats.

Jim McGreevey of New Jersey and Mark Warner of Virginia are both very popular in their respective states. Jim McGreevey served as a Mayor and narrowly lost to Christie Todd Whitman in the 1997 governor race in New Jersey. Mark Warner is a respected businessman in Virginia. Both candidates are running against very conservative Republicans that are both enthusiastically supported by George W. Bush and his special interest partners. Maybe you're like me and live near one of the states - sign up as a volunteer for one of the states and help out with their campaigns. If you're not nearby but have family and friends in those states, get them excited about the campaign and volunteering. Maybe neither is possible for you; however, that doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do. Across this country there are local campaigns in every state. If you can spare 3-6 hours a month, take the time to volunteer.

If we are to defeat the deep pockets of the special interest groups, all Democrats need to take the time to get the vote out and volunteer. No amount of money can defeat the spirit of volunteering.

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