Yesterday I did an on-the-street voter registration drive in Reston, Virginia…More specifically, at a classic Jagaur show. Bad idea. Not the demographic we were trying to reach at all. By the end of the day, I wanted to crawl into bed sobbing. I did manage to sign up 5 new Obama sympathetic voters, only getting chased away 3 times. I observed that there are a great many undecideds, including many minorities. There is also a totally inordinate number of British expats in Reston–All of whom seemed very sympathetic.
I don’t know if I have the emotional wherewithal to canvas again, but I really do admire the people who have that kind of grit. Canvasing is vitally important in swinging Virginia. The sympathy of the local registrar often decides the ease with which organizations can register new voters. All of the offices in Northern Virginia are completely swamped and there is a great deal of ambiguity about particular legal issues. The New York times had this this morning:
Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities for students who registered to vote at their college.
The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and health insurance.
After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections said Friday that it was “modifying and clarifying” the state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his releases.
The organization I was working for closed their Blacksburg office last week due to these constraints. Remember, if you encounter any suspect information or practices from your local registrar’s office, even if unintentional, you are allowed to ask questions. Here is the Virginia State Board of Elections website, for the sake of registration trouble shooting. Also, important to note that the state of VA is one of the few that REQUIRES your social security number to register, so make sure you have it handy.