Getting Involved Before November 2: By BOB BURNETT

Special to the Planet
Friday August 27, 2004

In 2000, in the critical 10 weeks before the presidential election, there was nothing like the surge of political energy that has rippled through Berkeley in recent days. 

Of course, four years ago we didn’t understand how awful George W. Bush really is; most of us dismissed him as a travesty, rather than a menace. And, most voters were not enthused about the robotic Al Gore; we were prepared to vote for him, and perhaps donate money to the Democratic Party, but not to work for him. Four years of the Bus h administration has changed all this. 

Recently, everyone I’ve talked to has been eager to defeat Bush. (Not all are enthusiastic about Kerry, but they are united in their anti-George passion.) 

The question is, what can people do between now and Tuesday, Nov. 2? How can we best expend our money, time, and energy? Here are a few ideas, with emphasis on time and energy. 

First of all, we have to be sure that we vote and that everyone in our extended family also votes. Online voter registration is available at www.ss.ca.gov/elections/votereg1.html. For those who don’t have Internet access, voter registration forms can be found at the county Registrar of Voters Office (Alameda County Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St. Room G-1, Oakland), offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Berkeley city clerk’s office, public libraries and post offices.  

For those who expect to be out of town on Nov. 2 or who don’t trust the new touch-screen voting machines, you can vote by absentee ballot by going to www.acgov.org/rov/absentee.htm, sending in the request form on the back of your sample ballot, mailing a letter to Registrar of Voters at P.O. Box 24424, Oakland, 94623, or calling 663-8683. 

Most of the Berkeley activists I’ve talked to are focused on getting out the vote (GOTV); some on maximizing the vote in the Bay Area, which will ensure that the Democrats carry California, and others on tipping the balance in swing states. 2004 GOTV campaigns seem to have four phases: registering voters, convincing them to vote against Bush, getting them to the polls, and then ensuring that their votes count.  

Locally a number of organizations are committed to all these activities. Among these are the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club found at www.democraticrenewal.us/index.htm, the East Bay Democrats at www.ebaydemo.org, and the United Democratic Campaign of Alameda County, 791-2179. If you are a student, or member of the UC community, you might contact Campus Democrats at http://campusdemocrats.org, Cal Berkeley Democrats, www.caldems.com, or California Young Democrats, www.YoungDems.org. 

Among the Democratic Party faithful there is a debate about whether the best way to coordinate swing state GOTV is with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), www.democrats.org/index2.html, or America Coming Together (ACT), http://actforvictory.org. The buzz at the Democratic Convention was that ACT is the best place to go for coordination of GOTV in swing states, while the DNC will primarily fund national media buys. 

ACT is the get-out-the-vo te wing of America Votes, www.americavotes.org, a coalition of activist organizations dedicated to moving forward a progressive agenda, in general, and defeating George Bush, in particular. (For example, the MoveOn.org Voter Fund and the Sierra Club are m embers of the America Votes coalition.) ACT is a 527 organization that relies upon so-called soft money and, therefore, legally must operate independently from the DNC and the Kerry campaign; however, the current campaign-finance rules permit ACT to focus on turning out pro-Democratic voters. 

Many Berkeley activists plan to make the relatively brief trip to Reno, Nevada, or Medford, Oregon to work on GOTV. The ACT contact person in Reno is James Katz, jkatz@act4victory.org. The Wellstone website lists Jack Kurzweil as their voter registration contact, jkurz@igc.org. You can also sign up on the ACT website http://actforvictory.org/act.php/home/static/volunteer_form, and they will provide you with a contact person.  

Of course, you don’t have to travel to a swing state to contact potential voters there. Various Berkeley groups have launched phone or Internet-based GOTV efforts. MoveOn has started, www.moveonpac.org/donate/leavenovoterbehind.html, which coordinates with ACT. Re Defeat Bush, www.redefeatbush.com, has launched a national phone campaign aimed at unregistered women; the local contact is dan@redefeatbush.com, (415) 336-8736. Another national organization focused on unregistered women is 1000 flowers, www.1000flowers.org. A comparable group is th e Mainstreet Moms Oppose Bush, www.themmob.com, which has lots of programs (and also sells nifty political jewelry). 

Besides the campaign to corral unregistered women, there are national efforts underway to coordinate GOTV programs targeted for racial/et hnic groups. One interesting example is National Voice, www.nationalvoice.org, which works with African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American constituencies. If you want to get involved with this effort, check out www.electionmatch.org.  

Many voters are very concerned about a recurrence of voter fraud on Nov. 2. The best website I’ve found on this topic is www.blackboxvoting.org, which is run by investigative reporter, Bev Harris. (Another good reference is “How They Could Steal the Election This Time,” at www.thenation.com.) If you are an attorney and can take time to work on the protection of voting rights, contact www.johnkerry.com/communities/lawyers, Lawyers for Kerry-Edwards. 

Of course, I haven’t the space to list all the local parties planned as benefits for these or comparable groups. My point is that we are surrounded by opportunities for political action in the next 70+ days, action that we must get involved in if we are to take back our country. ›