Registering voters: from the grass and the roots up

Dateline: Mon 07 Apr 2008

The Star's Bill Ruthart has a good piece in today's paper regarding the tremendous appeal of Barack Obama among young people in Indiana. The focus is on Sunday's Dave Matthews' concert in Bloomington. Matthews is just one of many youth-oriented celebs behind Obama.

I caught the wave over the weekend, registering voters Saturday at Nora Plaza. The organizers are Obama's people, who remind everyone that today is the last day to register to vote in Indiana. You can download a registration form here:

http://in.barackobama.com/INvote

What was amazing about Saturday's experience was the variety of volunteers who showed up at Brookside Park, and later Broad Ripple (in my case). Two organizers -- Judy and John -- set up shop on Westfield near the Monon Trail, on parks property. The day was gorgeous, and the signs: ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE? drew plenty of attention.

Here's how well-sourced this campaign is. I worked with Sean, a senior at Ohio State University who drove over Saturday from Columbus to help with the campaign, and Kia, a young marketing exec. Every encounter Sean and I had was positive; we each registered about 10 voters. (Kia was chased away from Target, but hey, Target won't even allow the Salvation Army to come in). Sean, BTW, has also done this work in Ohio and Pittsburgh. Like me, he voted twice for Bush. (!!!) "Hey, the second time, there was a war on," he explained. That was my logic, too.

The first guy I registered was Eugene, an older man with bad eyes who'd been shopping at Whole Foods. He was going to vote for Obama, he said. My favorite person was a black woman born in 1939 who could not remember the last time she voted. She approached me, and she asked to get signed up.

Whatever happens in the election, this has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Trust me, oldtimers and kids: this is much bigger than getting "clean for Gene" back in the late 1960s. That was a minority; this is huge.

The air of excitement about the political process is simply unprecedented. And no matter whom you support -- Hill, McCain or Obama -- the juice has to be good for the country.

Anyhow, that was Saturday's vibe. As Holden Caulfield used to say, "I wish you coulda been there."

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