Helping out

So, as mentioned last week, I decided to go to Ohio for the election this year. And, despite the national result, I’m glad I went.

Brian and I ended up spending our time in Ohio helping out the local Oberlin effort, Oberlin Votes!, run by Rob’s friend Ken. Oberlin Votes! aimed “to identify every individual who is eligible to vote in November and motivate them to register and vote in the upcoming Presidential election.” They started back in March canvassing the campus and the town, and managed to register over 2000 new voters in a town of 8000. They did so well that the local Republican party chairman accused them of voter fraud. But the job wasn’t done just getting them registered. We also had to get them to vote.

In the last couple days before the election, I helped out with pulling the databases together. We wanted to crossreference the records of Oberlin Votes! with the Board of Elections database so that we could identify any discrepancies ahead of time and warn people if the BoE had the wrong address or something. We also generated walk lists, organized by address, of voters so that volunteers could knock on doors, remind people to vote, and ask them to commit to voting by a certain time. Ken’s theory was that by making people commit to a time, it makes them more likely to keep that appointment. Plus, if they voted early, that would free up the polls for us to send people later in the day as we found people that hadn’t voted.

Rob did a huge amount of work crafting a tool to send out email to everybody in the database of Oberlin Votes!, giving them their address as listed in the Board of Elections, their precinct and their polling place. It was much appreciated by many students, because it had all of the relevant information in one place. In fact, we didn’t get even a single complaint of spam, despite sending out close to 2000 emails.

Brian wrote up the press release countering the accusations of fraud. He did a great job, especially in tracking down some former Oberlin students who were still on the electoral rolls and getting some good quotes from them. We unfortunately got the press release out too late for it to get any play in the media, but we wanted to make sure it got out before election day. Given the widespread allegations of voter fraud that were being lodged by Republicans at several levels, we believed that the Republicans were setting the stage for their appeal if they lost Ohio, and we wanted to make sure we had our defense in place before it started. It turned out not to matter, but we felt we had to try.

Then it came down to election day itself. On Monday night, Ken and I stayed up until 2am getting the final lists together, and figuring out how we were going to enter data the next day. The polling places release a list at 11am and 4pm of everybody who has voted by those times. We put together a tool that would let us enter that voting data quickly, and then generate a list of non-voters by address so that we could go send volunteers to knock on their doors and/or call them.

Then it was time for election day itself.