We're having a great response. It was fun. When I got there, the other folks in the booth were waiting for people to walk into the book, or were timidly handing out pamphlets. When I arrived, I asked Ruth, who has done an amazing job finding herself as a leader in the organization, what here goals were. She looked at me, like, hmm, what a good question. I'd asked it because I knew that a lot of people new to exhibiting really don't know how to define goals and work the people who they encounter.
We quickly determined that she had a petition she wanted signed, that had not been signed by more than a few people, though they'd given ou close to 500 brochures. And she said she wanted to build their mailing list and find more volunteers.
She handed me a pile of petition sheets and told me she'd be happy if we got two pages-- about 16 or 20 signatures. I took it, and started approaching people, trying out different wording.
"What do you think of electronic voting?" Nope that didn't work. They said it was okay, or didn't know and kept walking.
"Did you know that you'll be voting with an electronic machine in November?" Better, but not quite there yet.
Did you know that you'll be using electronic voting machines, not the lever machines you're used to, this November? You know electronic, like computers that crash and lose data, that can lose your vote?" People could relate to that. I'd ask them to sign the petition. Once I got the "pitch" down, I showed the other volunteers staffing the booth how to do and they quickly went from timid, passive brochure distributors to engaging in dynamic conversations, getting pages of petition signatures.
One group of people refused to sign, even though they agreed with our message. It got so we knew the profile. They wouldn't sign because they worked for the county-- run by Republicans. (we were presenting the issue as a non-partisan one, with support from both the Republican and Democratic candidates for congress. But the county commissioners who'd chosen a touch screen system, much less trustworthy than an optical scanning system, were predominantly Republican. I felt this was disgusting, having heard stories before that you had to be Republican to get a job or contracts with the county. This is really, really wrong.
Of course, I found that women were more willing to sign the petition, to care about the issue. I mentioned to one booth co-worker, how right Michael Moore was.. about stupid white men. She pointed out I was a white man too. Oops. But the reality was that guys, say 25-45, were really unresponsive, unless they looked like hippies-- long hair, beard...
It was a good experience, talking to a lot of people about an issue that I've been writing about since 2002, when my first op-ed came out on it, with an excerpt from Bev Harris's old website, before she'd created blackboxvoting. Back in January, the Zogby poll we'd commissioned found that 85% of PA voters wanted paper ballots or the old, reliable lever machines. Only 11% approved of strictly electronic voting. We were seeing a similar high level of interest... and it was nice that the organization had chosen to make a big sign mentioning the OpEdNEws zogby poll. A new team arrived to cover the evening crowd. I showed them how to reach out. They learned it fast, with great success, and I slowed down enough to notice, I was tired.
By the time I left, we'd gone way past the two pages Ruth had asked for. It was a satisfying day and I was exhausted. The temperature had been in the mid to upper eighties. I spent another hour though, wandering the fair, checking out the goats, pigs, cows, sheep, and thousands of people. It's a five day fair. I'll be back putting in more time-- probably also spending some time at the Democratic party booth and the Peace coalition booth, where I really like the leadership.
I encourage you. to, as we get closer to the 2006 elections, to go out and help an organization-- a campaign, an advocacy group. It will feel good.
Oh, about the goat picture. Clearly, it's a Billy goat. It got my attention because, as I was walking by its pen, it head butted the fence, trying to butt the head of male goat in the next pen. It reminded me of the Michael Moore's)stupid white men and Israelis and Arabs who butt heads, with biologically endowed stupidity. I had to get a picture of this, by nature, aggressive, combative critter. Unfortunately, as the blur shows, he wasn't cooperative. Neither was my cell phone camera.