The Ottumwa Courier

November 5, 2012

Volunteers make final push before the election

MARK NEWMAN
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — Regardless of political party, diehard supporters were hurrying to knock on one last door or make one extra phone call this weekend. Sometimes, the two efforts collided.

Trudy Caviness was working to update the call list on her home computer so volunteers wouldn’t call people who had taken out absentee ballots.

“I’ll bet I’ve gotten 10 phone calls today,” said Caviness, longtime chair of the Wapello County Republican Party.

Around the same time, husband and wife Democratic supporters John and Jane Cardenzana were on East Main Street. They had just gone to the last door on their Saturday list.

As they walked down the sidewalk, John’s cell phone rang.

“Hello? Thank you, no. I’ve already voted.”

Those in the know, like Republican volunteer David MacKenzie, say the volunteer effort will go right up to “the last minute.” He and his wife Judy participated as supporters in the 2008 election. He said the past week has been busier than previous weeks, but that’s normal.

At Democratic headquarters, that estimate was supported by the math.

“We made as many phone calls today as we did all last week,” said volunteer Melinda Quinn on Saturday.

That was in just a few hours; most of their callers left headquarters by 3 p.m.

In case residents wonder, organizers from both parties say they try not to call people who have already voted.

Another similarity between the two parties: This weekend, most of the effort was focused on telling people where and when to vote, not struggling to convince residents who they should vote for.

“With all the media, I think everyone knows about the election,” said Caviness. “The thing that we find is when [people are] newly registered voters, we may [need] to tell them where their polling places are, and what the hours are for voting.”

 Leaders in both parties, at least in Wapello County, have each had some voters tell them they’ll be glad when the election is over. Telephone volunteers from both parties have also heard from people who are a little less diplomatic in expressing their displeasure at receiving another political phone call.

MacKenzie and his wife contact voters both by knocking on doors and making phone calls. David said he does not get offended when people are impatient or frustrated, especially since he knows where they’re coming from.

“We get the same phone calls — and we get tired of them ourselves,” he said. “But most people, even if they’re not for your candidate ... are usually very polite.”

And yes, he said, there are those who get mad about phone calls, but David said he and his wife don’t get discouraged.

“You’ve got to realize not everybody is for your candidate. We just believe in our candidate and do everything we can to help him win,” the Republican volunteer said.

Democratic supporter Mary Ann Reiter said one of the things that has impressed her about the president’s supporters is their diverse, inclusive nature.

A woman in her 80s who felt she couldn’t volunteer ended up baking and frosting a cake to put out at Democratic headquarters.

Reiter said they had very young and older supporters making calls.

Quinn was thrilled by their dedication.

“They hardly took any breaks,” Quinn said. “I had to make them take a break.”

David MacKenzie said that kind of enthusiasm is vital amongst his fellow Republicans, too. And what makes the political system in America better than that in many nations.

“That’s what makes it work ... the people at the ground level,” he said.