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More Election 2008 Stories: On the road in Iowa and Wisconsin

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Here is another Election 2008 story sent by my friend, Gary Houston.  It came from Sharon Evans, one of his colleagues in the theater world.  Sharon has given permission to post her experiences, traveling to Iowa and Winsconsin to get out the vote. And, she  included this short bio:

Sharon Evans was Artistic Director of Live Bait Theater for twenty years and is a Chicago playwright. Four of her plays have been awarded developmental support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Evans also created POLICE-TEEN LINK, a nine-year-old program that brings together Chicago police officers and local youth through improvisation classes and creative writing.

                 Part one - Iowa

Iowa- John and I went to Iowa yesterday and it was real eye opener on many levels. Because Illinois is a " safe state' we in Chicago are not privy to the very passionate and urgent work going on in the swing states.

The down side: it was a 4 1/2 hour drive, that's nine hours in the car both ways and that was miserable. We car pooled  and used the Evanston office as our point of departure  because we were going with our friend, set designer Mary Griswold.  (She lives there and had contacted the people in that office)


People I chatted with yesterday at the Iowa office told me that at the Obama office on Broadway and Montrose, over a 1000 people showed up to make the trip, quickly filling the two buses.  The rest jumped in cars and drove.
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So we're on the road with our new friend Mike  from Skokie who is driving his car, we are pointed west and after maybe 15 minutes he suddenly announces that he is considering spending the night, not driving back as planned. Panic ensues ( silently of course, we don't want to upset Mike while he's driving) and  once we  arrive, I immediately start checking around for a ride back. All cars were full, of course they were, that was the whole point. Luckily at the end of the day we convinced him that we needed to get back and he agreed. Lesson number 1 being, next time drive yourself. Or at the very least, check out your driver.


We were diverted to Iowa City, which is further into Iowa and there were so many Chicago volunteers, they were holding briefings outside under trees.


The Obama Campaign is very savvy in their tactics and I would like to urge you or people you know to get involved.
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We were briefed,  given our voter packets and sent to a very small town, 25 miles away. We did street canvasses but what we were actually looking for, other then giving out info on Obama, were the elusive people who haven't made their minds up yet. And believe me, there are plenty of them.  Anyone who is "leaning" toward Obama or toward McCain is checked, then called and cultivated by the home office. Thanks god because we were pretty shaky when we had to divert from the script. Yelling back at the TV is a little easier then talking to someone in a doorway, living in a little frame house with peeling paint and a degenerating front porch.  It humbles you and even I, Miss Talker,  was searching for words.  One women said to John, " We're screwed no matter who wins". The public mood is pretty pessimistic.


We hit about 30 houses, all Democrats, independents, or noncommitted.  John ventured up to a group of roofers working on a small ranch house and they cheerfully yelled back they were voting for Sarah Palin.  He suggested they might want to check into the current economy crisis and McCain's position on how he plans to fix it and returned to the car.


Their jobs will be the first to go as the construction business tanks but meanwhile  they like her " spunk."  The Republican Palin media blitz  had obviously worked well on them.


We brought back our information to the office where about ten younger computer literate types started banging it into a data base.


In the row of computers I saw this older women in her sixties, working away with particular diligence.  I went up to her and thanked her for her efforts. She stopped and looked at me and asked, " Are you part of  the group from Chicago? " I said yes and she said, " No, THANK YOU. We really appreciate you coming out " , then she went on, " I have a plastic back brace, so I can't walk, and I'm missing half my vocal cord, so I can't talk. All I can do is type, and that's what I'm doing."  So much for my belly aching about the long drive.


I don't know if we're willing to go back to Iowa, it's just too far.  We are going to look into Wisconsin. It's a swing state and  closer plus we have a family connection up there and a place to stay.

Part two: Milwaukee November 1-4

We canvassed Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Milwaukee, mostly in minority neighborhoods. It was quite different from our experience in central Iowa. 
The operation was incredible. The Obama canvassing office was in a large former grocery store in a shopping plaza and the surrounding lot was packed with cars from Illinois. It was like Field of Dreams, they were waving them in continuously.  It was being run by union members and the goal was to get minority voters to the polls, so we weren't sent further north into the state, as I thought we might be. They were all Democrats, we were mostly making sure they voted. We stayed with John's Milwaukee cousin, Robert.

It does work, this canvassing. People were surprised to see us and asked us questions about where to vote. We gave out tons of house signs for people to display. The weather was great and people were friendly. One day we talked to ten felons! 

People like to talk. I met this younger woman on the sidewalk and she said to me, " I think he was sent from God in heaven to be our president " and me not being particularly religious myself, I just agreed that yes, he was indeed heaven sent. A few minutes later I met a older Latino man and I offered him election info. He informed me he was voting for McCain, because he was " my friend" and I though wow, McCain saying " my friend" all the time really worked on this guy. He started to leave then paused, turned and said, " He's white like me". I thought to myself, to many Americans, you're not consider white, you are considered tan. And unwelcome at that, but all I said was, " There are other reasons you might want to consider when voting for someone. Thank you, sir, for your time." 

We got back from Wisconsin a little earlier then planned and spent election evening at our friend's Peter and Frank's apartment (they are out of town on a cruise) which faces Grant Park on Randolph with about 15 people, including Mary and Geoff, who went with us to Wisconsin. We could see the stage lights in the distance where Obama's stage was and hear the echo of the speeches from the deck. We could watch the police closing Lake Shore Drive  and about ten minutes after the election was called, we watched Obama's motorcade make it's way down a deserted drive, with police and secret service escort. 

  

Got home on public transport with no problem. But we hightailed it as soon as the speech was over and walked very quickly over to the El. 
 
On the train people were peaceful and smiling. A great feeling of togetherness.

 

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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