Why We Register

by Maria Elena Rodriguez
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regfrm.jpgI don’t have enough hobbies.

Following the mantra of “grassroots organizing,” I set up shop at 3 different sites to hunt for new voters: Homeboy Industries on Friday, the Westside Costco on Saturdays and St. Augustine’s Catholic Church on Sundays.

I don’t need volunteers, infrastructure or permission as long as I’m on the public sidewalk. With one rickety TV tray, a folding chair, two clipboards with forms I pick up at the post office, and some hand outs I made which compare Obama vs. McCain views on major issues – I’m in business. In a few hours I get anything from 5-25 people to stop by. Most are re-registering because they’ve moved. The rest are voting for the first time in their lives.

Yes, I’m a Obama supporter but I choose to make mine a non-partisan table. Because of this I’ve registered Republicans, Independents, Libertarians and many Decline to State. If they ask I give them the Obama pitch. But first I want to them register as they see fit. The next month will be a wild ride. Some will change their minds every day up until November 4th. That’s the beauty of democracy.

An old Balkan immigrant (who is not a citizen) asked me what I got paid for doing this. When I told him nothing, he laughed, patted my shoulder and walked off. I have wondered why I do it, especially after the rare crank mouths off to me against Obama, or declares that it’s useless to vote, why should I register? I’ve figured out my answer after this weekend: I do it because people have a story to tell that they will only share at this moment. They’re angry, scared, hopeful, resigned, inspired, baffled, but engaged in a conversation about a government that they thought they had no part in. They share bits of their story with me as they sign that registration form.

I’m a sucker for good stories and this week I heard from:

• a Mexican immigrant who just took the oath as a citizen but has been working so hard he didn’t have time to register

• an Iraq War vet who was homeless but now has a residence

• an old couple in their 80s who moved from their home to an assisted living facility but couldn’t remember the address

• an ex-gangbanger who said he can’t read or write but really wants to vote

• a lovey-dovey young couple who filled out the forms as if they were filing a marriage license

• a parolee who couldn’t register but asked to keep a form so he could fill it out as soon as he was eligible

• a woman who filled out the info for her husband and made him sign right there because she said he procrastinates.

Folks, this is the best show and only I get to watch it. It’s frustrating and folksy. Some people just want to vent but not vote. Still, I get many thanks, thumbs up and even handshakes. One guy I signed up on his way into Costco brought me a soda and hotdog on the way back to his car. He thought I might be hungry. I was.

You have until October 20th to register to vote on November 4th. If you can’t find a table like mine on the sidewalk, you can get a voter registration form at your local post office to fill out and mail. Or you can now register online (in California) at:

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vr.htm

If you don't receive materials within two weeks contact (in Los Angeles):

Dean Logan, Registrar - Recorder/LA County Clerk
(562) 466-1310 Phone
(800) 815-2666 (LA County Only)
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This election is probably the most important in decades. If you don’t want to vote for either Presidential candidate, still register and vote in the state and local elections.

Not voting is still voting for the status quo. And you lose.

 

Comments   

#1 Jeremy Bonsall 2008-10-07 08:29
Can you register if you live at the VA? How many other homeless vets do you think aren't able to register??

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