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Saturday | October 19, 2002

Dems focus on turnout

Get out the vote efforts have kicked into high gear with the early balloting season opening up.

In Iowa, the Dems GOTV efforts are viewed as superior to GOP eforts.

Some top Iowa Republicans are privately panicking over the Democratic voter-turnout operation. The absentee ballots are starting to arrive in courthouses around the state and, as predicted, the Democrats are doing a far better job of lining up absentee ballots.

If this continues, it will be a landslide year for Iowa Democrats. One top party leader said privately his party will spend $3 million in an effort to add 190,000 ballots to the mix on Election Day. They've put out 80,000 absentee-ballot requests and more are on the way. He expects Democrats to produce 130,000 absentee votes by the end of the effort, he said. About 200 people have been working full time to direct hundreds of volunteers and labor-union members who help with the program.

In Texas, Sanchez' entire gubernatorial campaign seems to be predicated on pulling off the state's largest GOTV effort ever. And, that effort kicks off Monday. The Sanchez campaign has been bragging that it will be impossible to rent a van once the voting season starts -- the Dems have rented all vans to help get their supporters to the polls.

And in the biggest race of all, the Florida governor's race, liberal groups are all fired up post-2000 and working overtime to generate record turnouts amongst their constituencies.

In the fall of [2000], a loose coalition of African-American voters, trade unionists, college-town liberals, working women and seniors upset the Bush family's Florida franchise to make a safely Republican state suddenly competitive. Grassroots organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts pushed the turnout up from just 49 percent in 1998, the year in which Jeb Bush was elected, to 70 percent in 2000. A disproportionate number of the new voters were members of minority groups angered by Jeb Bush's attack on affirmative action: African-American voter registration jumped 9 percent in the months prior to the 2000 election, compared with a 1 percent increase in white voter registration.


The revolution's success will be determined by the ability of activists to gin up a turnout that can begin to rival the 2000 phenomenon. "Between now and November, our work is all about getting out the vote," says Florida AFL-CIO president Cindy Hall. Voter registration among union members is up 23 percent so far this year, and could yet see a 30 percent increase. And the state AFL-CIO, aided by the national AFL-CIO and several internationals, has committed $1 million to the get-out-the-vote drive. The campaign will be aided by a referendum (backed by McBride and opposed by Bush) to mandate reductions in class sizes in public schools--a priority of the teachers' union--that is expected to generate record turnouts by educators.

Ramped-up voter registration and identification campaigns by unions are paralleled by civil rights and seniors' groups. "Florida is the battleground state for democracy in 2002," says Andrew Gillum, a former Florida A&M student body president who works with the People for the American Way Foundation's "Arrive With Five" campaign. Wearing a "You Have the Right to Vote" T-shirt, Gillum asks Floridians to sign forms pledging to bring five other voters to the polls with them. The forms are fed into a computerized database that will power a massive get-out-the-vote drive. The "Arrive With Five" campaign has focused particular attention on African-American communities--whose votes formed 15 percent of the electorate in 2000, up from 10 percent in 1996. Working with the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens and local organizations, People for the American Way has developed "Election Protection," a program to distribute voter-education materials and monitor voting problems.

Posted October 19, 2002 08:53 AM | Comments (4)


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