d-day, d-day, may-day, may-day
Then it is off to our neighborhood to wake up the folks and take them to the polls. No sooner then we turn down our first street with Ariel on the megaphone, do we come across a man that needs a ride to the polls. Debbie is off & we continue to find folks that need rides.
All the day long, people come out their homes, step into our cars and even the truck, and we take them to the polls. Many too many times, they end up standing in line waiting to get in and then are turned away from that poll even tho it is the location printed on their voter registration card and sent off to another poll. Luckily, we can take them.
We are in the poor, devastated areas of beautiful Jacksonville. Jacksonville is a city similar to Portland in that it has sprung up on the shores of huge bodies of water. Whereas in Portland there are rivers, in Jacksonville there are huge bays & lakes & rivers - so everyone is just minutes from large masses of water. And everyone is not living equally safe & sound in this beautiful place - or a place that could be beautiful and safe & sound for all. The neighborhoods we are in, the heavily democratic, heavily African-American, heavily poverty-struck neighborhoods are populated by people determined to vote. We're taking people who are grabbing their children & jumping in, people who are grabbing their best friend, their neighbors, their sister-in-law and going off to vote. Everyone is excited & hopeful - today is the day Kerry is winning in a landslide, bush is going back to Texas. Some people we give rides to we can barely understand; some young wimmin are suspicious and shy about getting into a truck, let alone a car with strangers - but they do. Then they have to fight to vote - the poll worker claims she doesn't look like her id, they can't find her on the list. We call the supervisor's office & get the correct polling place, again not on her card. It is across town & it's getting late. We spy an ACT van & talk the driver into talking the young wimmin to the supervisor's office to vote. The young girls balk again about getting into a van, this time with male drivers, but they do it, as determined as they are to vote. Off they go.
We hit a project where there are several young men, no shirts on, & several young wimmin dressed so scantily they might as well be naked also, hanging out. We're talking to them thru the megaphone, trying to get them to come vote. Everyone is refusing. I stop the truck & approach. They tell me they can't vote because they all have felonies on their records. It is heart-breaking as first they're all bluster & bluff, then they are so sad, they want to help get rid of bush. As we are talking, several young wimmin come out the apartments and head to the waiting codepink car. They all have id's and they all want to vote! So we're off!
All the day long, we're picking up folks & taking them to the polls; or we're calling in names & numbers & addresses of folks who want to vote at later times. Around 5:00 we get a call to head to a precinct where there's low voter turn-out. Off we race to another poor community packed with voters who want to get rid of bush. We continue to fill our cars & truck. One womon is holding one child in her arms while another leans against her knees. We take all of them to the poll. She isn't sure she's allowed to vote - she sent in her registration but didn't receive a card in the mail. When she called them, they told her she didn't fill it out properly & it was too late to do it correctly. We take her anyway - they don't let her vote.
At 6:45p.m., 15 minutes before the polls are going to close, we come across two people who want to vote but don't know where their polling place is. Lots of polling sites have been closed or redirected to other locations. One is an elderly white womon who is bent almost in half. She would probably come to my elbow if she could stand up, and she is overweight. None of the cars are around - just my truck. I can't imagine how i'm going to put her in. Then she tells me she's moved and they probably won't let her vote close by. I call the supervisor's office - you can give then the name & birthdate of the person & they'll tell you where to take them. While I'm talking, another very young man comes running up - he wants to vote. He doesn't have a driver's license, just a high school student id. the supervisor's office says that'll work but he has to go far away too. I desperately call for a car - none is around. The old womon says over and over again, so whistfully, 'I sure would like to vote, I really want to vote, I've never missed an election' all the while she is bent over, her dog probably a little older then she is standing next to her steadily barking and growling at us as we try to find her a way to the polls.
The young man has already gotten into the truck. I try to get directions to the downtown office - I cannot make it there before 7:00 - I beg them to wait for us. They tell me I have to get these folks there before 7:00 or they will not be able to vote. I tell them the old womon is disabled & can't they allow her to vote? Nope, it won't happen.
We are all crying, especially Irma. Her dog is now howling and snapping, wildly upset. The young man takes off to our apologies, assuring us it is alright. We take off ourselves, trying to find someone who can vote locally. We pull into a strip mall where several men are hanging out. Ariel does her thing on the megaphone & most of the men say they've already voted, except for one middle-aged man. He says he's just gotten off work, his boss made him work overtime, and he wanted to vote but doesn't have a way to the poll. We tell him to hurry & get in and off we race, our last voter in tow. As we approach the polling place, we tell Chester he HAS to run - he jumps out and hits the ground racing. 15 seconds. He is 15 seconds too late and they don't let him vote either.
We are sad. Even tho we've taken so many people to the polls, we've let down these three voters. We ask the observor how things went - he says the precinct shot up to almost 70% voting! yeah! We talked w/election protection again and they told us more of the same: people being directed to other polling places, people not being allowed to vote because they couldn't find their registration.
But the VERY best thing is we think Kerry is winning - all the exit polls are indicating Kerry is winning. We can feel it in the air - Kerry is winning. All the day long, as we traversed the neighborhoods, people would step outside to proudly show us their "i voted" sticker or to tell us they've already voted for Kerry. School children would race along side the truck chanting "kerry, kerry, kerry". One womon jumped back into her car, raced home, and then tracked us down again, pointing to her sticker she'd forgotten to place on her blouse! Kerry has definitely won, at least in these communities.
We're beat, exhausted, yet feeling like we've done great, which we did. We head to Fuel Coffee House for the Election Nite No whining wine party. We congregate with the rest of codepink wimmin and other activists to watch the returns for a moment. Ariel & I are going to drive to Tallahassee tonite but we want to touch base with everyone first. The big screen tv has cnn plastered across it - the polls haven't been closed for a minute and they're already projecting bush to win florida. We are disgusted. I want to head to Debbie's, take a shower & a nap, check in w/washington codepink folks, and make a plan. On my way out of Fuel, I run into a new codepink member & we chat for awhile. While we are talking, a young white bush supporter comes up to ask me questions about why I don't like bush. A few minutes later, an older white fellow with very long hair comes to report on the cop that is hanging out by my truck. I had noticed the cop car but didn't pay it too much attention. He tells me he has watched the cop crawling under my truck, examining the engine, looking around. The cop asked him if this was his truck. He asked the cop why he was looking at it - apparently it was called in - for what, we don't know. I'm wondering if the sound ordinance did exist after all in Jacksonville. And my registration expired october 31st - altho I did send in my check, I won't get the new tags until I return to California.
But the cop is gone by the time i get to my truck - no ticket, no slashed tires, no nothing - i'm not complaining. I head to Debbie's, take a shower & pass out for an hour.
10:00p.m., voting is not even over in the west, and cnn is giving everything to bush. Debbie doesn't have cable so we can't get pbs - just disgusting fox and cnn. Oh well, I speak to Andrea - she and Chris are on their way to Tallahassee. I tell her we will be heading out shortly. We keep listening to the news, our hearts falling as quickly as our blood pressure is rising. How the hell can these networks call the election before they even count the votes. CNN is giving bush the lead in Ohio, calling it undecided but probably bush, bush, bush. They are being so coy about it. I talk w/Andrea again - she has arrived in Tallahassee and will be making phone calls. We are having a meeting at 9:00 tomorrow a.m. and a demonstration at 10:00 on the steps of the capital. I tell her we'll be there by then.
I decide to get a few hours sleep and leave for Tallahassee by 5:00 tomorrow morning. What the hell. I know there is only one way bush will win this - and that's if he somehow cheats. There is no way he can win this election legitimately. Already there has been sooooooo much voter intimidation and disenfranchisement; there have been absentee ballots never received; there have been registrations tossed because they box for citizen wasn't checked even tho when you sign it is printed again "i swear I'm a citizen".... too tired to write more! give us strength. peace, sam