Wednesday, October 20, 2004

We're Winning The Ground War (No, Not That One)

The Guardian reports on Karl Rove's biggest nightmare:
More than 120,000 of the new Ohio registrations are from Cuyahoga county, surrounding Cleveland, and many of them are like the Phillipses: poor and African-American, and generally less likely than the average voter to turn out on polling day.

Over the past year voter registration drives have reached deep into the areas of under-privilege, signing up ex-convicts, residents of subsidised and public housing projects, young people, single mothers and thousands of shut-in senior citizens.

They discovered people who had never voted. "Either they didn't feel it was important to them, or they were poor and didn't feel it touched their lives, or they were young and they hadn't been educated about their rights," says Judy Gallo, the co-chair of the Greater Cleveland voter registration coalition.

Although the coalition is officially non-partisan, the newcomers can reliably be counted on to vote Democratic. Their votes could make all the difference in Ohio, where Al Gore lost by just four percentage points.

"This is light years of difference away from 2000," says Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democratic congresswoman from Ohio and the national co-chair of the Kerry campaign. "What is really going to kick their butt is the new registrations."
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In past elections, political organisers say they could count on about 40% of newly registered voters actually casting their ballot. This year they are aiming for 65%, says Arnold Pinkney, the Cleveland director of America Coming Together.

Mr Pinkney has worked on every election since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and he says he has never detected such enthusiasm. From now until the election, volunteers and paid workers aim to contact every registered voter at least three times to make sure they turn up on the day.

"I am going to drag them there if I have to," says Meryl Johnson, a vice-president of the Cleveland Teachers' Union.

For the last few months she has spent three hours a day on top of her job, writing letters or making phone calls urging people to vote. She has even set homework for her eighth-grade English class on the importance of voting in the hope it might rub off on their parents.

"The most exciting thing for me is, when Kerry wins it is going to make believers out of a whole lot of poor people," she says.

"They are going to know that their vote does matter."

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