The energetic young men and women who organized VoteToday Ohio want to impart some crucial training before their crew of 60-some volunteers hits the campuses, neighborhoods, job counseling centers and other places where likely voters may be found. First there are celebrity introductions to be made. Our numbers include people from many parts of the country and as far off as England, we are told. There is even a honeymooning couple, Vic and Yoni, who have been helping to save the redwoods in California and now are wrapping up their wedding trip by registering voters in Ohio. Vic and Yoni are adorable and we all applaud loudly.
The next volunteer to be introduced is Michael Guston. He is a character actor - L.A. Law, ER, The Practice - and he looks familiar in the way that character actors often do. “Everyone thinks they went to high school with me,” he says. But in fact I also look familiar to him, and it turns out that we have been New York City neighbors for many years. He recently moved to upstate New York near the Pennsylvania border and now spends many hours a week canvassing Pennsylvania voters. Guston plays General Tommy Franks in W., Oliver Stone's new movie about the President, which will open at the end of this month. There is sustained applause for him as well.
Finally the organizers present a tiny, elderly woman sitting in the back row. I don't catch her name, but when she stands, the crowd goes wild with clapping and cheering. She is Howard Dean's mother, and in this group there could be no greater claim to fame. She has come to Ohio with friends to register voters during “Golden Week,” a small window in early October during which it is possible to simultaneously register to vote and cast your ballot.
The training session proceeds in a very organized fashion, as the organizers describe what they want to accomplish, and how we should go about it. Politely, for one thing -- we are not to pester people to sign up. The sole note of discord is when the vehicles in which we are hoping to transport voters to the polls are referred to as “vans.” The consensus is that we should call them shuttles instead, as “vans” sounds slightly sinister.
Just as we resolve this weighty matter, a staff member comes in with an announcement: “Good News!” she tells us. “The Ohio Supreme Court just upheld the challenge to the early voting window.” Since we had no idea that the policy was even under appeal we were not as relieved as the organizers - who had wisely decided not to share with us that the entire program was in jeopardy.
Tomorrow is showtime, and we're ready to rumble. Politely, of course.