Monday, June 2, 2008

Phonebanking for Obama

By: Barbara Wright

I spent this last Saturday calling Puerto Rico on behalf of the Obama campaign. Let me explain first that the Obama Campaign is now using software that developed and put into play for the 2006 election. It is designed to let people call from their own phone to a list of names of voters that appears on their computer. It comes with all of the reference information that the voter and the caller needs to know. When is the primary or general election date, where is the polling place for this voter, when are the polls open, how can the voter register. There is also a script that prompts you on what to say. In the case of calling Puerto Rico it was in Spanish and was great because it reminded me that in Puerto Rico they don't say Votar, to vote for someone, they say Apoyar, to help someone, as in ?Apoyar Obama?

In 2006 I called 1500 people. I have not been able to do anywhere near that amount for this election but I really enjoy talking person to person with people all over the country. It takes a little practice so you don't sound like a telemarketer or a robo-call. Sometimes, depending on the list they give you it can be allot of no answers or machines. My list for calling Puerto Rico was all men's names. My first call was answered by a woman and after I asked for Juan, the name on my list, she told me he was not voting for Obama, he was not voting at all, he'd been dead for a year. I had two other calls where I was told the person had died as well. I had two calls where the person laughed and said they were not eligable to vote.

I had a few Hillary supporters and several people that were going to vote for Obama. One man kept saying he was voting for "el varon". " the man". I had to make him say Barack Obama so I could click the right button on my computer screen. I had a few curious women who demanded to know who I was and why I was calling their husbands and if he gave me his number! I assured them it was strictly political. My Spanish improved as I called although I had one man who hung up on me saying he couldn't understand what I wanted. Did you know that Puerto Ricans get to vote in the primary but not in the general election? Who knew?

I recommend this activity to anyone wondering how to get involved for the general election. It amazes me every time I do it that you can, through the miracle of technology,from the comfort of your own home or office, talk to someone far away that you've never met and get them to help us fix our broken democracy. This tool is gluing back together the fabric of our society that the Republicans and some Democrats have been trying to rip apart. That person on the other end of the phone is my fellow citizen, my fellow American, a member of the "We, the people " the Constitution refers to so eloquently. I had better end this. For some reason, I've got a tear in my eye.

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