A Solid Strategy

by Michael Belinsky | 11/3/04 6:00am

Overprepared and ready.

That's how I would compliment the efforts of the Young Democrats here at Dartmouth. The close and controversial election energized the voters, and our Young Democrats were able to tap into that energy and channel it into their various committees responsible for voter outreach, data mining, literature dissemination, visibility on campus -- you name it.

Their Election Day strategy was flawless. Literature drops were carried out Monday evening and early Tuesday morning. Visibility teams braved the rain and the cold to cheer for Kerry on intersections and at van stops. Vans picked up voters around campus and drove them to and from the polls. Lawyers were present in each van as well as at the van stops and the election site. Polling teams checked off students on site.

The information was relayed to headquarters at Collis Common Ground and checked against a previously assembled database of likely voters. "Pull teams" were then sent out to secure the votes of the illiterate (for only they could have missed the flyers, banners and BlitzMail messages about voting).

While it seems overboard at first glance, this strategy was a coherent and commonsensical response to the news of voter intimidation in battleground states. Some groups held voter registration drives and then threw out the Democratic registrations. In some Florida counties police conducted pre-Election Day intimidation patrols, disguised as terrorism information gathering.

Here in Hanover, Republican lawyers held up voting lines with groundless challenges in 2000 and 2002. Clearly, the Republicans had a mean streak. And the Election Day strategy was the Young Democrats' response.

Seeing the strong Democratic response, Republicans chose not to resort to full-fledged voter intimidation in New Hampshire. The few reported incidents were quickly resolved both by the lawyers volunteering for the Democratic campaign and by the people overseeing the voting. Thanks to their efforts, the chaos of the 2000 and 2002 elections was replaced by streamlined voting: quick and easy.

Voters fared worse in other battleground states. What has become clear from last night's news cycle is that Florida did not improve its election system. There, mail-in votes will be counted as late as Thursday. Ironic, because Florida spent $32 million trying to improve the entire process and it seems they still cannot avoid litigation.

In Ohio, although the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed for challengers to be sent to the voting locations, the Republican Party made few challenges. In Pennsylvania, however, a judge sided with the GOP by disallowing the state to count 12,000 reportedly fraudulent absentee ballots.

But none of that seemed to ebb the flow of voters to the polls. Not often is voter participation as clear as it was today. Learning in class that some 40 percent of Americans don't vote and that most states produce empirically predetermined outcomes, we tend to lose faith in the electoral process. But not so in 2000 and again, now, in 2004.

The participation of everyday people in grassroots politics was felt strongly Tuesday on campus. Whether they were students or professors, Hanover residents or passersby, on the gray and rainy day of Nov. 2 they stood up for what they believed in.

I want to thank that unnatural occurrence in the White House -- George W. -- because I believe that we couldn't have done this without him. By polarizing our nation on almost every issue, he also energized it. By making every attempt to discourage voter turnout, he made me want to get out and vote even more. Truly, President Bush, not Osama bin Laden, is to be thanked for increased voter participation in this election. His presidency, above all else, made me feel proud and dignified as I cast my vote for the Democratic Party.

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