Obama campaign promotes early voting

10/20/08 Concetta DeLuco
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Volunteers for Barack Obama's campaign took to the streets of Clearwater on Saturday and went door to door to promote early voting that starts today.

Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Congresswoman and national co-chair for the Obama campaign, visited the Obama headquarters in downtown Clearwater to encourage the need for the volunteers’ continued efforts in getting Floridian voters to the voting booth.

With just 17 days before the general election on Nov. 4, campaigners at the Obama headquarters met early Saturday morning to continue their efforts to get Tampa Bay voters to the polls as early as Monday to participate in early voting. In the 2000 presidential election, 537 votes postponed the outcome for over a month, and singled out Florida as a crucial battleground state that needed voter reform.

Schakowsky emphasized the importance of getting early voters in trying to address any problems that might arise and prevent any similar occurrences.

Referred to as “the One” by Oprah Winfrey in her endorsement of Barack Obama at a rally in Iowa last year, Schakowsky used the same slogan to encourage the volunteers to be “ the one” to obtain the vote that makes the difference in the upcoming election.

Since the primary in June, the ranks of Florida voters has swelled to nearly 11 million; more than 4 million or 58 percent of them are identified as Democrats versus the 3.8 million Republicans. More than 400,000 newly registered Democrats are mainly from among the youth. This election isn’t like any other said, Janet Dowell, a campaign volunteer. Early voting is being encouraged so that we can be prepared for the voter turn-out, she said.

Congresswoman Schakowsky stressed that the first step toward seeking “the change” Obama is promoting has been achieved through the efforts of the millions of volunteers throughout the nation that have been invested in the campaign. Schakowsky and the campaign managers addressed some of the issues that the volunteers have been facing. One of the concerns raised during the meeting was brought to the forum by Susan Ellis, a volunteer, who questioned whether mail in ballots or early voting would be the better route for voting.

Another recurring problem the volunteers have been facing is handling the controversial issues surrounding Obama that non- supporters keep raising. One of the most frequently mentioned rumors that the volunteers have dealt with involves Franklin Raines, the former Fannie Mae CEO, who allegedly profited tremendously from the subprime mortgage crisis; he has been referred to as Obama’s chief financial advisor. Schankowsky debunks this issue as well as the concern about Obama not being pro-Israel. Being a Jewish Democrat herself, Schakowsky has been trying to reach out to the Jewish community and squash claims that suggest Obama is a radical Muslim, a rumor arising from his attendance to a Muslim school as a child living in Indonesia.

The last day to register to vote in the election was Oct. 6 and prior to the deadline, volunteers went out into the community to register people to vote. This past weekend, WMNF accompanied volunteer Janet Dowell as she walked some of the streets of Clearwater, knocking on doors and informing people about early voting.

Dowell said the campaigners focus on predominantly Democratic neighborhoods and want to make sure that those voting for Obama will make it to the polls, either by signing them up for early voting, providing them with mail in ballots or offering the citizens rides to the polls.

Last weekend, volunteers participated in the same “blind knocking strategy” and were very successful in the amount of people they were able to sign up for early votes. For the hour that WMNF shadowed the campaigners, there were only a few responses to the door and the rest were left with a pamphlet containing the information that was needed for early voting.

During these 15 days before the general election, early voting will be available for all registered voters in the elections offices and will be available during the week and on the weekend. Absentee ballots must be received by the Supervisor of Elections no later than 7 p.m. on Nov. 4.

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