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What I Saw in Athens

I volunteered for voter protection in Athens, Ohio, home to the fighting Bobcats of Ohio University. I flew to Columbus, OH to see the Obama rally, and drove on down to Athens, a beautiful little town about 80 miles southeast of Columbus. The water main had broken where I was staying, which I decided was not an evil omen. The next morning, I went to headquarters, and did phones for an hour. The phone list was the first sign that something was Changed. The list was people who had said they would vote early, but hadn’t at that time. I was stunned. I had a script, and clear instructions from a volunteer. I think I hit on three, there were no wrong numbers, and while I was there, among the entire group of callers, there weren’t more than 5 republicans. Last time I did phones, for Kerry in 2004, in two hours, I found only 5 or so Democrats out of 100, the rest were wrong numbers and republicans.

Then I went to Voter Protection Training. This was my second clue that something had Changed. There must have been 75 people there, lawyers and legal people from across the country. I talked to folks from New York, Boston, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Texas. Matt spoke, a young lawyer from a big New York firm, explaining what we were doing, and why. Two hours and I knew enough Ohio law to make a big difference.

Then we split into teams, and our team went to the polling places to scout out locations for our work. This seemed suspiciously like organization, a serious sign of Change.

The next morning, we were at the polls 45 minutes before opening at 6:30, and let me just add a personal note: that’s unbelievable for me. We had inside people, who were Ohio residents, accredited to sit in with the poll workers to resolve problems. We had outside people, us foreigners, whose job was to watch for trouble, and help the voters with the complicated ID rules for students and local people. Then we had GOTV people who stood outside the electioneering line and electioneered like crazy. This was organized! I am a member of an organized party!

The precinct judge was excellent. He set out with the goal that everyone who showed up would get to vote. OU, through President Fingerhut and Kent Smith, Dean of Student Affairs, cooperated with its kids and the Obama people by providing a document that met the requirements of Ohio law, and facilitating its availability.

Polls closed 13 hours later, and I and others were out there all day, from the cold morning to the sunny midday (too sunny for a guy whose normal color is office pallor) to the cool evening.

We won the box 2-1, a trifle under our goal, but we don’t know how we did with precinct early voting. Countywide, the early voting was in the range of 16%, and we won 75% of it, mostly students, I’m guessing. And we won the county. And we won other Appalachian counties we think. Ohio turned BLUE to a raucous crowd at the Pigskin, whose owner put out excellent food for the starving people.

This great result came from the incredibly hard working crew of College Democrats, including Jeff, Nate, Karen and others, at Ohio University, the unpaid efforts of the OU organizer, Simon, a bunch of people from all over the country, including several from New York and Arizona, who moved to the county one to three weeks ago, and worked the phones and the doors, Mark and Matt, a couple of lawyers who took time to show up and get people organized to win.

I met Ohiobama, a Kos blogger and specialist in the political world of Southeast Ohio. For a discussion of the background of Rob Portman, potentially a repub candidate for pres in 2012, this guy is good.

Also a shoutout to Ron, this was his first campaign since he poured his heart into the Bobby Kennedy campaign. It was an incredible story.

Courtney and Dave: fabulous work.

Finally, big cheers to Roger, Stan, Ina, Steve, and a bunch of other lawyers and legal people who flooded into Athens as the last line of defense.

Will Rogers wouldn’t recognize this Democratic Party.

I seem to be grinning like a fool.

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