Thursday 30 October 2008

North Carolina Day 1, Part 3: Early voting

Early voting is one of the most fascinating phenomena of this campaign. The Obama FOs are obsessive about getting their supports to vote early, as they can in many states across the US.

An enormous advantage of early voting, as Regional Field Director Zach Koutsky explains, is the ability of the Obama campaign to have been able to “bank” tens of thousands of votes a couple of weeks back when they were as much as 8 points up in the polls. Since then, the Republican attack machine turned their fire on Obama in an attempt to win back a state that seemed a shoo-in only months ago – but the momentum is with Obama.

What is really remarkable are the early voting numbers. Across the three North Carolina counties being run by Zach Koutsky, over 175,000 have already voted. Each FO has a target for their early voting – and many are as much as 10% over already.

The results from this relentless drive for early voting, however, seem to have been mixed. In one of the polling districts we canvassed – predominantly poor and black on the outskirts of the Raleigh – 48 of the 53 people we spoke to had already voted Obama for President and the “straight Democratic ticket” for Governor, Senate, Congress and the State positions. But I got the impression that many people said they had voted early to avoid canvassers – as evidenced by our return to the campaign office saying “everyone has voted!”, but being told that only 8% of the district actually had.

The more savvy Field Organisers can log in to VoteBuilder (the Democratic equivalent of our polling programme, Contact Creator) remotely on their Blackberries, and, using the numbers from voters’ polling cards, let the central campaign office know exactly who has voted early on a live website. These people are then taken out of the GOTV lists for the final drive – but, of course, are contacted as volunteers. Marvellous.

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