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Williamsburg Calling Party Chats Up Voters

Rotary Phone“I’ve often heard people say it doesn’t matter who you vote for, they’re all the same,” said Jimmy Ellis, a 56-year-old MoveOn.Org member and host of a calling party Thursday night for Barack Obama in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “But now, since the election in 2000, I think we can see really clearly, even if you don’t have your perfect candidate, it makes a difference who gets into office.”

Mr. Ellis, a self-professed “big Obama supporter,” was seated amongst the nine like-minded volunteers who had arrived at his railroad apartment on North 8th Street to call fellow MoveOn.Org members in Ohio and North Carolina and urge them to help get out the vote in their communities. At the end of the night volunteers had called 490 members, made contact with 150 of them and 18 agreed to volunteer over the final weekend of the campaign. As of 10 p.m., the final 170,000 calls had been made nationwide.

Mr. Ellis recounted how he made a serious effort to vote in the previous two presidential elections, but it wasn’t until 2006 that he began to make a concerted push to affect the midterm elections by calling swing states in favor of Democrats. “I love this program because I really feel like I’m doing a lot for the campaign.”

The calling program, started by MoveOn.Org in 2006, urges members in traditionally blue states to call their swing state brethren during crucial elections. Volunteers at Mr. Ellis’ home were urging other MoveOn members to join canvassing and phone banking efforts at MoveOn offices in their home states. The program also signs up members to make calls from home, an easy way to get involved in national politics.

“I did a lot of calls in 2006 in the call for change campaign – MoveOn.Org made 7 million calls,” said Mr. Ellis, though he added, those calls were to infrequent Democratic voters, far less likely to want to chat about their politics.

During the five or six Williamsburg parties he’s hosted this election season, Mr. Ellis said he had many great conversations with members all over the country, most of whom have said yes to volunteering or had already done so.

“My husband and I volunteered during the 2006 midterm elections for MoveOn,” said Elizabeth Pugh, a neighborhood resident who brought her husband with her to make calls at Mr. Ellis’ apartment for the second time. “That was a really satisfying experience because Democrats took back the House and the Senate and Rumsfeld resigned; we were really excited for all that.”

Armed with the experience of having a tangible affect on local elections around the country, Ms. Pugh said she was happy to volunteer during the final weeks of the campaign, though she was still uncertain whether Senator Obama will win on Tuesday.

“I have an 8 year old, he’s a big Obama fan, so that’s why I’m here tonight,” Ms. Pugh continued. “I was too depressed [to volunteer] before 2006.”

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