Rebecca McDonald is a young blogger for Rock the Vote and The Source from Minnesota. She helped cover the DNC convention for Racewire, and here she continues blogging from the Twin Cities following the GOTV efforts. Young People In Full Force- Minnesota Represent! By Rebecca McDonald November 4, 2008 Photos by B FRESH Photography
7 a.m. At the University Avenue bus stop in St. Paul, Minnesota, Robina Rai continued her Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts from the night before. She is not a citizen, but has been active in the 2004, and now, the 2008 elections with the League of Young Voters, or as they say in the Twin Cities, the League of Pissed Off Voters. She took the number 16 from St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis, getting off at the University of Minnesota campus and Nicollet Mall, making sure people are getting out to vote, and are informed about the candidates. The League put together voter guides for cities across the country, which can be found online at www.theballot.org. 8 a.m. Nellie Brau, on her way to class to take a test, chose to represent her excitement about this year’s election with her American flag scarf. Zubair Saiyed was campaigning on a busy corner of campus for Obama, letting people know he thinks MN needs change. All over town, people on their way to class and work were greeted with the morning dew, and political flyers from the previous night’s “Midnight Madness” flyering efforts. 9 a.m. On Nicollett Mall, Malissa Mallory, a special education teacher who was recently laid off, was on her way to get health insurance, vote and then go volunteer and make sure people are getting out to vote today. 9:30 a.m. Deangelo Jacox was on his way to school at Studio 4/High School for Recording Arts. He is not old enough to vote yet, but can’t wait until the next election. 10:00 a.m. Franklin Delano- Nothing is an anarchist who believes people can organize and make change, even without a leader. He might vote today for the State Referenda on Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage & natural Areas (AKA Vote Yes Minnesota), but he will not be voting for any individual person. 10:30 a.m. Robina makes her way back to University Avenue and gets off the bus at the Plasma Services building, where a line has formed to donate plasma for money. She makes her way up the line, making sure people know where to vote and that they can register at the polls today, because MN has same day registration. Today, she will also be poll watching with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Minneapolis. The ACLU is part of a coalition of organizations that are making sure everything runs smoothly across the country today. 11:00 a.m. I finally make it to my voting location to cast my ballot. This is what I have been working towards for months and months. I can’t wait until this day is over, so I don’t have to see another nasty political advertisement on TV. I got my sticker, and checked out the ballot where kids can vote, too! It’s Like A Parade- North Minneapolis Stand Up!!
Photos by B FRESH Photography 12:30 p.m. On our way to Minneapolis, Robina Rai and I saw MN Senate candidate Al Franken and his rock star bus on Dale in St. Paul, so we stopped for a quick chat. He told us that young people need to know that the system will work, despite the last 8 years of the Bush administration. 1:00 p.m. Rene Brasseur and Diane Tran, from Smoke-Free Dakota, an organization working around smoking issues in workplace, have come to volunteer at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis, serving as headquarters for the Election Day Community Coalition get-out-the-vote efforts. The duo’s daily work involves getting people engaged and educating the community, so this partnership was a match made in heaven. 2:00 p.m. Jennifer Risen of Every Child Matters greets volunteers at the registration table. The Election Day Community Coalition is a non-partisan coalition that has been working tirelessly to get people involved and out to the polls today. The coalition is made up of over 30 organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of MN, Family and Children Services, The Urban League, The League of Women Voters, and the Joint Religious Coalition, among many others. Risen tells a volunteer that going out canvassing, or “face-to-face contact” as she says, “is the number one most effective way to get people out to vote.” Their efforts today include poll watching, visibility, canvassing and phone calls. 3:00 p.m. Outside, the mother and daughter tag-team, Amber English and Freddie Davis-English, who are currently living in Plymouth, Minnesota, just returned from doing visibility. They went to a busy intersection on Broadway with the sign “Voting Questions? Ask Me” and people were pulling over to tell them they voted, and someone even did a U-turn to ask a question. The craziest question came from a man who needed to register today, and he only had his mortgage statement, that was addressed to a P.O. Box, which wouldn’t be sufficient identification, because the mail needs to verify residency at a specific address. MN is one state that has same day registration. Freddie recalled being at the University of Minnesota during the election of Jimmy Carter, and the energy that she experienced. Nothing compares to the energy she felt among young people today, November 4, 2008. She and her daughter believe more voter education needs to be done, especially around the fact that you can’t vote in any precinct you want. 4:00 p.m. Ty McCoy, Shortybuff, William Hambrick, AKA Big Chop and Lawrence Battles pose in front of Clipper Cuts Barber Shop on Broadway in North Minneapolis. Shortybuff, recognized that the people in the neighborhood are smiling and happy, but he asks the rhetorical question, “How long?” He passionately follows up, “We are a threat when we are united as one” but his colleague said that he thinks everything will be fine tomorrow. Ty, a barber at the shop says, “I am not for black/white, but for what’s right.” The barbershop didn’t just jump on the Election Day bandwagon today, but have had the voting signs for months now. People actually have mistaken the shop for the Obama headquarters down the street. Barbershops across the country serve an important role in the community. Clipper Cuts has been a one-stop shop for everyone’s needs, hair and otherwise. Not only can you get your hair lookin’ right, but you can learn how to vote, talk about your relationship issues, and find counsel in the barbers. Oftentimes, the barbershop serves as a first-stop for people getting out of lockup. When you get out, you want to get your hair and clothes right, and you, in turn, get the right information about felonies and voting, which is different from state to state. 5:00 p.m. I head screams coming from people standing in the streets: “This is the day to celebrate!!” and holding signs that said ‘VOTE TODAY.’ A car passed by with a cardboard Obama hangin’ out the sunroof. Local elementary students who just got out of school lined the street holding voting signs. Dawn Davis, Chief Operating Officer of Emerge Community Development, a non-profit organization trying to get people out to vote, yelled, “Vote today” on the microphone as cars passed by on Broadway. Honking was coming from every direction. The mood was intense! 6:00 p.m. Robina Rai and Judy Takkunen volunteered as poll watchers at Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, in North Minneapolis’ Precinct 7, Ward 5. They ran out of same day voter registration cards, so the judges ordered more from the headquarters. Robina stopped a man who leaving the premise that was challenged by the election judges about his registration. She got him the right information and he was able to vote. Her adventures at the community center also led her to meet a 41 year old first time voter. She reflects, “A lot of first-time, immigrant voters were so excited and feeling very satisfied, having a smooth voting experience.” Alex Bajwa, a challenger for the Obama Legal Team, shared with me that this particular polling location site was having “phenomenal turnout” and that “no one had been turned away.” There were more new registrants voting than old registrants, hence running out of registration cards. 7:00 p.m. The polls are starting to roll in, as polling sites have closed in 24 states. The activities at the Capri Theater are starting to come to a close. I still hear the excitement outside, with people saying, “It’s like a parade!” Cars rolled around the hood all day, bumpin’ music with signs taped to ever side of the vehicle. I have never seen energy like this around an election. This will be an election of a lifetime, but I hope the energy sticks around.