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We Came, We Saw, We Got Out The Vote



Flashback to Monday morning: I had just arrived at the Obama field office, and I was changing the "Countdown to Election Day" sign to show the number of days left till the election: "1."

This was it. Many of my photos from the weekend through the election came out blurry, which was fitting because the breakneck pace of activity was a blur! November 1 through 4, the Saturday before the election through Election Day itself, were "GOTV" -- Get Out The Vote. This was when the phone calls and the canvassing (door-knocking) stopped being about persuading voters to pick Obama, and started being about urging the Obama supporters to volunteer and to actually cast their ballot.

For days beforehand, the field organizer and volunteer coordinator had been copying and putting together canvass walk lists, maps, phone-call lists, and scripts. Two new offices, called "staging areas," opened near our office -- a phone-bank office two doors down, and a canvass office at a union hall five minutes away. These were spaces large enough, and with enough parking (for the most part!), to accommodate the floods of volunteers needed the last weekend before a Presidential election.

Meanwhile, the home office was staffed only by a front-desk volunteer -- often me -- who directed incoming volunteers and food donors to the staging areas, gave out yard signs (always in demand!), and fielded phone calls and messages. These were from a wide variety of people, including: volunteers needing to schedule, change or cancel hours; voters needing a ride to the polls or asking where their polling place is; and more.

One phone call sticks out particularly in memory: A volunteer called because a member of her extended family had suddenly fallen ill and was in the hospital recovering from brain surgery.

I thought she was telling me she needed to cancel her volunteer shift. Turns out she was calling because this patient, lucid and worried about the election, wanted desperately to get out of the hospital and vote for Obama!

I helped her get an emergency absentee ballot and said I hope he gets well soon.

Sunday, I spent most of the day at the phone-bank location, staffing the sign-in desk for people who were getting phone lists and scripts and making calls from one of the many desks in this second-floor office that had also served as Obama headquarters during the primary. But once it became clear that we had succeeded so well in contacting potential volunteers that we were in fact calling people multiple times and annoying some of them, we passed the word up the line that we needed to stop these calls and do something else.

We were then given a list of calls -- to Florida!

Toward the end of the weekend, it turned out that some of the offices actually ran out of lists of people to contact, so some of their volunteers were pointed our way! And on Monday night, when I worked at the canvassing staging area during the last shift before Election Day, the group of us finally found ourselves slipping Obama/Biden yard signs into their wickets until there were no signs left. Around us were tables loaded with food, and boxes loaded with canvass packets including the door-hanger: "Vote Obama Today."

As it got to be late night, someone called up the "Yes We Can" music video with will.i.am on her laptop with the "Obama '08" sticker, and we all gathered around to watch it one more time before we went home for a few hours' sleep before the big day.

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