When I was young, our family would receive visits from a man we only saw at election time. He would make sure our eligible voters were registered and that our registered voters were going to support the Democratic ticket. My parents always welcomed the man warmly and I wanted to do his job when I got older. Thanks to my Forest Park partner in politics, Mark Rogovin, I finally got a small taste of what our old precinct captain experienced.
Mark and his wife Michelle have been working on behalf of the Obama campaign in Indiana. Our neighbor to the east hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. McCain considers the state such a lock that he reportedly has only one campaign office in Hoosierland.
Our day of politicking began at the offices of the People’s Weekly World, a labor newspaper featuring articles in English and Spanish. Its offices are housed in a “green” building in Bridgeport. Here in this den of liberal idealism we assembled volunteers for our trip to Hammond.
Fortified by a Bridgeport breakfast of hot dogs and fries, we drove to a law office on Indianapolis Boulevard that doubles as an Obama headquarters. A volunteer from Pennsylvania addressed us and distributed voter registration forms and a copy of Indiana’s voter requirements. He assigned us to a large apartment complex, which he believed contained a high percentage of college students. He said that volunteers from the office had already registered 20,000 voters in Lake County and hoped the five of us could register 80 voters before the end of the day.
We drove to the sprawling complex, where we didn’t find any students but plenty of working class people. We were completely impartial registrars, if you excused our Obama buttons and literature. We spent the next hours knocking on every door in the complex, seeking the unregistered.
We found about half the residents home and received a very favorable response to our blue Obama buttons. In fact, we were pretty much preaching to the choir – we just wanted to make sure all the singers would be heard on Election Day. I registered my first voter. Then I caught two Chicago-transplants getting into a car and registered them.
Meanwhile, Mark was registering a few and offering absentee ballot forms for those who couldn’t make it to the polls on Election Day. This was fortunate because one of the voters was having surgery on Nov. 4 and needed to vote absentee. The canvassing wasn’t as difficult as census work and felt very satisfying. But, by the end of the day, we had only registered about 25 voters.
If you would like to help the Obama campaign complete its voter registration drive in Indiana, the e-mail address is IL2IN@ObamaFD.com. If you would rather help McCain keep the state in his column, call (703) 418-2008. Either way, you’ll be spreading democracy like an old precinct captain.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.