I spent two hours last night at the Houston headquarters for the Tony Sanchez campaign. I’d volunteered to help call supporters to remind them to vote. It was a good night to make phone calls – it was raining and flooding around town, so most people were at home. Here’s a report of my evening.
The headquarters are in a union hall in between downtown and the Third Ward. The first thing I noticed were a lot of vans in the parking lot. The Sanchez campaign has boasted about renting every van in the state. There was definitely evidence to support that claim.
There were about fifteen people making phone calls while I was there. Several of them were speaking Spanish to the people they were calling. We were primarily calling heavily Democratic areas – this was about getting out the vote, not changing minds. The script we used mentioned all four top-of-the-ballot Dems – Ron Kirk, Tony Sanchez, Kirk Watson, John Sharp, in that order.
I was calling people in Precint 195. Precint data from the 2000 election can be found here, from the County Clerk’s web page. In 2000, this precint of about 2500 registered voters had a 48.6% turnout. Over 90% of them voted straight Democratic – the final tally in the Presidential election was 1175 votes for Gore, 10 for Bush. This was a receptive crowd for the message I was delivering, to say the least.
I spoke to about 35 people (not counting answering machines). I kept tallies as requested by the vounteer coordinator. About half had already voted in early voting. Three people I spoke to were ineligible to vote. Three or four told me that they’d already voted, then hung up before I could confirm who they’d voted for. (None was rude about it – they all said something like “oh, I’ve already voted, thanks”.)
Only one person expressed no interest in voting. One person specifically said she was not voting for Tony Sanchez (I didn’t ask about the other candidates). Twenty-five had already voted or were planning to vote for the Democrats.
This is basically anecdotal evidence, so take it for what it’s worth. My impression is that I was pleased by the effort and commitment I saw. One woman I spoke to said that she’d not yet received her absentee ballot – she was basically homebound, so she had to vote by mail. We sent a volunteer that same night to her house with a ballot, since today is the effective deadline for getting them in the mail.
If the key to getting elected is getting your base motivated and turned out, then what I saw was good for the Democrats. The people I spoke to were definitely into it.
Early voting continues to be heavy. The numbers for the first week, at the bottom of the linked page, for the 15 most populous counties, are 350,214 so far in 2002, compared to 322,095 for 1998.