Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's the Franchise, Again - This time from Oregon


After spending Friday and Saturday doing "visibility" for the Clinton campaign here Portland, Oregon, today I began to switch gears. Still in Portland, but now focused on voter protection efforts.

This morning I attended a meeting at Senator Clinton's campaign office. Representatives from the Oregon Democratic Lawyers Council briefed us on Oregon voting laws and regulations, specifically those most relevant to today and tomorrow and on Tuesday, Oregon's actual primary day.

In Oregon, there is a huge spike in voting starting on the Saturday before election day and going to its highest on election day itself. Even though many Oregonians mail in their ballots long before election day, the real action is starting now and running through Tuesday as people drop off their ballots.

While voting continues through to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, counting starts Tuesday morning, after the counting machines are tested and zeroed out. As a member of the voter protection team, one of my most important functions on Tuesday will be to make sure that any dysfunctional machines are put out of service for the election. Other duties: observe the county "opening boards" - the people who take the ballots and scan them through the counters; and make sure that anybody on line by 8 p.m. gets to cast a ballot.

I will find out later this afternoon where the Clinton campaign needs me most. I doubt it will be right here in Portland but it may be. The operations director in the Portland headquarters is first-rate. The plan: she will be speaking to the best in-state volunteers in offices throughout Oregon to determine where the need for a legal team member is greatest and let me know where to go.

As I sat around the table with others who will participate in ensuring the integrity of Oregon's election, I realized anew that every single ballot cast in a certified election matters and must matter to the D.N.C.

Around that table were young attorneys, older attorneys, a court reporter, and a former official who served in the Oregon Secretary of State's office. All were there for Senator Clinton but also for the sake of the franchise, the right to vote and vote meaningfully: that right that women got only with the passage of the nineteenth amendment, less than 100 years ago.

At moments like that one, I understand why Senator Clinton goes to as many places as she possibly can - as do President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. The effort to reach every voter as personally as possible is certainly strategically wise, but my guess is that something more than that motivates Senator Clinton. She understands that every individual voter matters because each one of us has both an incredible power and a serious responsibility when we exercise our franchise, our right to vote. By reaching out to individual voters in every single state, regardless of the toll on her resources, Senator Clinton shows the same respect for the franchise that made me decide to extend my stay in Oregon.

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