Your Sunday Ground-Game Reports: Missouri, Virginia, and D.C.

By James Fallows

I'm not out doing on-the-ground campaign reporting myself; the Atlantic has had some great dispatches on that score from Molly Ball. But several readers report what they have seen. First, from a worried Democrat, about the McCaskill-Akin ("legitimate rape") Senate race:

I live in Missouri, and I just don't trust these polling leads McCaskill has (which are embarrassingly small as it is).  I think people may be embarrassed to tell pollsters they are supporting Akin (not necessarily claiming to support Claire, but perhaps being more likely to hang up on a pollster if they are pro-Akin). 

I have a bad, bad feeling about this, but I hope I'm wrong--and not just because I like McCaskill (have met her several times) and think Akin would be a terrible senator.  Beyond all that usual level of politics, it would be a black mark on Missouri, really make us an object of ridicule, if we were to elect him after all this.  ::shudder::

For better or worse, we should all be past the "bad, bad feeling" stage, or its counterpart "good, good feeling," in a few days.

Now, from a more buoyant-sounding Democrat in Virginia:

If it comes down to the "ground game," I think Obama has this all sewn up.  I live in northern Virginia (a "battleground state").  Yesterday, someone knocked on my door and asked for my Mom (who lives with me).  I asked what it was about, and he said he was from the Democratic party and wanted to make sure she had a ride to her voting location on Tuesday (she's 89).  When I said yes, she lived with me and that we would both be sure to vote on Tuesday (the straight Democratic ticket), he made a notation on his checklist, thanked us, and went on his way.  Then today, a second canvasser came by to make sure we voted.  I don't remember for sure, but I don't think we were visited by a canvasser 4 years ago, let alone two.

I now very much believe the reports I've read about Obama's vaunted ground game.  One can always hope.

And from a fairly recent arrival in Washington, D.C., explaining this photo that he took last night:

vote_line.jpg

- As it happens, I just voted this evening [Saturday night], and on a voting machine. I too had the alarming experience of trying to check my candidate and having the machine select someone else instead. I was able to change it back easily enough, and there was a visible paper trail being printed for every step I took (vote for wrong candidate --> attempt to select my candidate and receive error message because I have to de-select the selection--> de-select wrong candidate --> vote for my candidate). Moreover, it was plainly visible and there was a final step for reviewing and revising all selections made. Anyone who after that still voted for the wrong person wasn't paying attention.

- It's bad that the touch screen technology doesn't seem to have caught up with our smart phones, but the much bigger scandal to me was the two hours I had to wait in line just to cast the bloody ballot, particularly when early voting is supposed to make the process easier. Attached is a photo of the line just after I finished voting. It snaked to the back of the building, up front, and then back up the stairs. It was slightly shorter than when I started, when the line was coming back down the stairs. It's frankly appalling that in the second decade of the 21st century the electoral process have the efficiency of a gasoline rationing, and in the nation's capitol no less. (I live in Ward 7, one of DC's poorer areas. I consider the intersection of poverty and voting restrictions a product of gross negligence at best.)..

I get the feeling that early voting is less of a hassle in the much more affluent Northwest quadrant as it is where I'm living and that in five or ten years, when Southeast has been colonized by wealthier (and mostly whiter) citizens, things here will begin to change.
Again, that the world's leading democracy has such shoddy machinery of democracy should be embarrassing -- and we haven't even gotten to Florida. More soon.
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(And, of course, the other D.C. ground-game development is that the Redskins looked pathetic in their loss to the previously pathetic-seeming Panthers. Forget your statistics and your fancy polls and your political-experts' gut feeling. This is the sign that Mitt Romney is going to win. You can look it up.)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/your-sunday-ground-game-reports-missouri-virginia-and-dc/264509/