Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

November 5, 2012

Volunteers get out the vote

Thousands of calls being made in final days to election

By Maureen Hayden
CNHI Statehouse Bureau

Indianapolis — Indiana candidates and their backers have spent millions to woo voters.

But in these final days, some of the most valuable assets are the call-making, door-knocking volunteers who will help get out the vote.

In scores of field offices across the state, thousands of volunteers are engaged in intensely targeted efforts to get the people the campaigns have identified as supporters to cast their ballots.

“There’s no way to underestimate the value of what they’re doing,” said Michael Edwards, a Democratic field organizer in Indianapolis. “They’re reminding people that

every vote counts.”

That’s become even more apparent in recent days, as some key races appear to be still up for grabs or much closer than expected.

The critical GOTV — the political acronym for “get out the vote” — is “what it all comes down to,” said political scientist Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“You can spend a boatload of money,” said Downs, “but if you’ve got no plan for getting voters out to the polls, you’re going to lose.”

Indiana Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat said GOP volunteers have made more than 1.6 million phone calls at the party’s 12 “victory centers” around the state since voter identification and get-out-the-vote efforts began this summer.

Democrat volunteers in 20 field offices around the state have made more than 1.4 million calls. Like the GOP, they’re focusing not just on reminding party loyalists to vote, but nudging along those “sporadic” voters who don’t vote in every election, and working on

convincing independent voters to see things their way.

For Republicans, those calls are being made by people like Jodi Smith, a Hendricks County mother of five who has volunteered with her teenage children since earlier this

summer.

Smith alone has made more 25,000 calls, with a goal of 1,000 calls a day in the final days of the campaign. Her value as a volunteer isn’t just the quantity of calls she makes, it’s the content of the message she delivers.

“I talk to them about how important the race is and what’s at stake,” Smith said.

It’s a similar approach that Democrat volunteer Doris Fields has been taking in the hundreds of calls she made from Indianapolis field office. Her calls have been targeted less to reliable Democratic voters and more to the unlikely voters – independents and people who’ve voted sporadically in the past.

“I just tell them, ‘every vote counts,’ said Fields, a grandmother of five and longtime campaign volunteer. But she doesn’t just stop there.

“I tell them: You should vote. It’s your civic duty,” Fields said. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com