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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Civic Duty: Registering People to Vote

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Crystal and Sarah
My Voter Registration Cohorts
As you can well imagine, workers for the Obama campaign have swarmed the city of Charlotte, getting ready for the Democratic National Committee convention scheduled to be held here in early September.

I got in on the action last Saturday as a volunteer for Organizing for America, a community organizing project of the Democratic National Committee. Throughout that day and for several weeks to come, volunteers will help register people to vote, as I did, throughout the city.

As a first-time volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect and just showed up ready to sign folks up so they could exercise their right to vote – no matter what party they’re affiliated with.

I met some field organizers in the Habitat for Humanity parking lot on Wendover and was sent to a major retail store in East Charlotte to ask people, who weren’t already registered to vote, to do so. My cohorts, Crystal and Sarah and I, drove to the establishment, stood outside in front of the place and went to work. What we found was that most of the people were already registered. And some weren’t eligible because of their citizenship status and other reasons.

The first woman I registered to vote, Jaimie, had recently moved to Charlotte from Ashville, so yes indeed, she needed to get on the roster. She filled out the registration form, but wouldn’t allow me to take her photo (darnit). She was a really nice lady who said she moved to Charlotte because after four years of working at a job in Ashville, she was not given a raise. She came to Charlotte for a better opportunity. Her mate (boyfriend or husband – I didn’t ask) declined to vote as he was an ex-felon and thought he was ineligible. I tried to explain to him that if you've been convicted of a felony in North Carolina, you only temporarily lose your citizenship rights, including the right to vote. BUT you automatically get those rights back after you serve all parts of your sentence, including probation, parole and restitution. You do not need a special document saying your rights are restored. You just register and vote like any other citizen.

But he wasn’t convinced and walked to his car while Jaimie signed up. I also met a nice gentleman from my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware who was with his two adult sons. Of course, he was already registered in Delaware and couldn’t register again, but I did find out that he used to teach at my alma mater – William Penn High School!

We were at this retail store for only an hour when we realized we were being monitored from the security room of the store. Yes, that’s right – we were being WATCHED! So, as you might guess, the manager of the store sauntered out to Crystal and politely told her that we didn’t have permission to be there and had to leave. “Really?” Crystal asked. “Wow, OK, we didn’t know.” And so we left.

When we got back to the Habitat for Humanity parking lot, Crystal and Sarah joined another volunteer and walked over to some nearby retail stores to register more people, but I had to go and pick up Gigi. So that was my first experience registering people to vote. I’m sure I’ll try it again before the summer is over.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where can I get info. to sign up to volunteer for the DNC convention?

Alicia Michele Benjamin said...

Here's the link with info. on volunteering at the DNC:

http://charlottein2012.com/involved/volunteer/

Good luck!