Sunday, October 5, 2008

Phone Banking for Obama

I started phone banking for Obama the week of Sept. 15, two days after the new San Francisco for Obama office opened on Market Street. I was partly inspired by fear - fear that McCain/Palin would win the presidency because the so-called undecided voters would vote for McCain; fear that the election won't be decided on election day because too many swing states would be too close to call so they'd have to count the absentee and overseas ballots; fear that the election would be stolen again by the Republicans.

I had already donated some money to the campaign so I decided what I could do was donate my time rather than get depressed about meaningless poll numbers. The San Francisco Obama office is just a few blocks from where I work so everyday that week, I dropped by during my lunch break to call whomever the office wanted me to call.

The first two days I got phone lists of Obama supporters in San Francisco. So I'd call people, thanking them for their support and telling them that they could help the Obama campaign in one of two ways: traveling to Reno, Nevada to canvass undecided voters and register voters and/or phone banking by calling other supporters in San Francisco. Every weekend, the SF office is organizing trips to Reno—Drive for Change.

I probably called around 40 to 50 people each day. I'd say about 90 percent of the people I called weren't available so I would leave messages. And I would also get wrong numbers so I was helping to clean up the phone list. Plus I would ask people for their email address if we didn't already have it and ask people if they would like to receive the weekly local e-newsletter.

The next few days I was calling registered voters in Nevada, which meant calling Republicans and Democrats. I got a lot of wrong numbers and answering machines. For these calls we were instructed not to leave messages. So each day I only spoke with a small handful of Nevadans. Republican Nevadans aren't too friendly. Two or three Republicans hung up after I identified myself as a volunteer with the Obama campaign. I did speak with a couple Democrats and they were voting for Obama--but one woman said that for the first time she was not 100 percent behind the Democratic presidential candidate. She also said that she wasn't going to vote for McCain. I couldn't get her to nail down exactly why she felt that way. But she did say that if push came to shove she probably would vote for Obama. And I got one Obama supporter interested in volunteering with the campaign and gave him the address and phone number of the Obama office near him.

The week of September 22 I did phone banking four days in a row. On a couple days I called Nevada and one day I called SF supporters. Then on Monday, September 29, I slipped on some wet pavement and sprained my ankle. I spent the week hobbling around on crutches and couldn't make it to the SF office to phone bank. I had been committed to phone bank that day and even got a call from the SF office saying they really needed people to come in because they had fewer people than expected show up that day.

But I did make up for lost time this weekend. On Saturday I went to a phone banking party for Obama. It was supposed to go from 2 pm to 6 pm. Lucia, a friend of mine, invited me to the event at a place only a few blocks from where I live so I thought it wouldn't be too hard to walk over there. After a visit to the orthopedist, I got a walking boot so I could stop using the crutches.

The "party" was organized by Tim who even set up computers for the four of us who committed to show up. Unfortunately, the Obama website was undergoing a software update so we couldn't log in and download a list of folks to call. We were slated to call folks in New Mexico, a state where early voting starts on Tuesday, October 7. So we saw an inspiring short video of Obama that used part of his convention speech and intercut various scenes from the stadium.

Then Tim called the Obama office in Berkeley for some advice on what we should do and then we all went there to phone bank from headquarters. We arrived at 3 pm and were set up at computers at an office a few doors down from the main office and began phone banking there. We were told that the goal for Northern Califronia was 50,000 calls that weekend. By 3 pm, 15,000 calls had already been completed. I made more than 70 calls over a two-hour period.

And this morning, I made about 15 calls to Ohio, where early voting has already begun and the last day to register to vote in Monday, October 6. In Ohio, you can actually register to vote tomorrow and vote on the same day, something Republicans tried to fight but lost in a federal court of appeals last week. Gee, I guess when you make it too easy for folks to vote, that's seen as a problem by Republicans.

Tomorrow I'll resume my lunchtime phone banking in San Francisco. If you want to get involved, just go to the Barack Obama website and you'll find links for volunteering, phone banking, knocking on doors, donating money. You can even set up your own account at, where you'll find links to local groups and events as well as links to information on various phone banking campaigns to participate in. You can also set up your own personal profile and a fundraising page.

I set up a fundraising page, setting a goal of $1,000 to donate to Barack Obama's campaign. So far I've raised $175. If you'd like to help me reach my goal, please visit my page and make a contribution—$10, $25, $50, $100 or more—every dollar counts. We all must do what we can to ensure that Barack Obama becomes the next president of the United States.