Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Las Vegas GOTV

This past weekend, I went from Los Angeles to Vegas to aid in the Nevada Get Out The Vote for Kerry effort for the second time and will be going again this weekend. It's been all about early voting for the past couple weeks -- urging people to take advantage of it, telling people where to go to vote AND offering a ride if they need one. What’s interesting about early voting is that you can go to any one of the many locations, as opposed to on Election Day when you’re required to go to your one precinct. We've been calling and visiting the homes of people who have previously expressed support for John Kerry, so we’re definitely venturing into friendly territory but that’s not to say that people aren’t getting sick of the calls. In fact, the phonebanking script had a new line this weekend: "I realize you may have gotten calls from us already…" and I threw in "and I apologize for that…" and sometimes they’d say "yup, just about a hundred" but they usually let you continue. A new phenomenon has developed there though: voicemail messages alerting the campaigns "I already voted, please don’t call me again."

But there were plenty of times when the person at the door or on the other end of the line seemed genuinely happy to talk to you. My favorite welcome we got while canvassing was, as we approached our next house, the next door neighbor was in his car, window open, and asked "Be ye Democrats, or be ye fools?" As it happened, he was just then on his way to vote for Kerry. There were some moving phone conversations I had as well. One guy who runs a convenience store told me he's been talking Kerry up to every one of his customers for the last several months and he hasn't heard ONE person express anything positive about Bush. He said "if the poor people vote, Kerry's gonna win." Another woman told me that she makes $7,000 because she's on disability and that she's lucky because she qualified for programs. She knows people who eat dog food to survive because their prescription drugs cost so much. "We have to get this guy out of there," she said. There is such passionate voter discontent for this president in Nevada. But perhaps the most striking thing about my trips to Nevada is the number of volunteers for Kerry there that are not even US citizens. It's a pretty small core group on the ground there and of them, I met two who are from England and one who is from The Netherlands. They truly see the election as a global event, one that impacts them just as much as it impacts us.

They told us on the bus that Californians make up about 45% of the volunteers on the ground in Nevada. I had no idea we were such a huge part of the effort. And it keeps growing. This weekend over 300 volunteers from California reportedly traveled to Nevada to help Kerry, up from fewer than 200 just a month ago. And to the extent that it’s an indicator, the improved quality and amount of food they serve to the volunteers tells me that real money is being spent on Nevada, which tells me that they really think it’s winnable. It’s exciting to be a part of turning this swing state blue. It’s feeling like it can happen. Here are some facts and figures:

A record 24,042 voters went to the polls Tuesday in Clark County, bringing the total to 183,252. The mail ballot return number is now up to 34,774 and Democrats have taken a slight lead (143 voters) in the absentee ballot count. In early voting, the Democrats had a big day and have moved out to a 7,042-voter lead.

The combined numbers:

Democrats: 96,954 (44.5 percent)
Republicans: 89,769 (41.2 percent)
Others: 31,353 (14.3 percent)

There's no guarantee, of course, that everyone votes with his or her party, but it's useful to get an idea of who is voting. Early voting ends on Friday so this coming weekend will be all about November 2. I'll have another report on Monday.


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