Quondam Dreams

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

An Election Morning Post

I'm writing this just after voting, and before heading to the Obama state HQ (conveniently located right near me) for one more marathon of data slinging. Phone bankers may get all the glory, but something's got to happen to all that yummy data. Mmm. Data. I've mostly been doing data entry, but lately I've been tapped to... count stuff. I never said it was thrilling.

The past few days, every nook and cranny of the offices - plus a good chunk of the sidewalk outside - have been filled with people making cell phone calls to people across the country. I've handled data for Nevada, North Carolina, Indiana, Florida, Colorado and probably some other state I'm missing. While I haven't personally encountered Missouri, the phone bankers I've talked with say the Missouri people are largely charmed that folks all the way in California would be interested in li'l old them.

I'm told that celebrities have been in and out of the phone bank room. Apparently, I've missed Orlando Bloom, Eliza Dushku, Dule Hill and Ryan Philippe. Though I doubt they swang by the data room anyway. The only non-geek types to seem to are parents who want to show their kids what's going on. Hi, kids. Would you like to draw a poster?

Here are some of the things I'm going to be looking for in the moments I can get online throughout the day. Grab a pencil and play along!

  • Population density correlations: In 2004, the higher the density of a region, the more likely it was to vote Democratic. The trend seems to be continuing, as people move out of the cities to live among more like-minded people, and a more diverse crew moves in. (This is a gross oversimplification, of course. For actual details, check out Bill Bishop's The Big Sort blog on Slate.com.) That said, the Obama campaign has made a concerted effort to reach out to voters in rural areas. Will that show up in the final tally?

  • Voter turnout by age and party affiliation: Youth voter registration has been strong, and tends Democratic. Will they actually turn out? And, assuming they do, will the influx of Obama supporters carry over to what I like to call "reality legislation" initiatives on state ballots? (About which: Look, self-appointed moral guardians of America, I know that you think that gay people shouldn't marry, that teenagers seeking abortions should talk to their parents, and that frozen embryos should have the same rights as living, breathing, fully-developed people. Guess what? Reality is kinda different, and your trying to redefine it won't make it so.) Also, will the young voter turnout be higher than predicted? Most telephone polls are limited to landline numbers, which leaves out the ever-increasing number of people who only use cell phones.

  • The effects of early voting: Will this cut down on overly-long lines at the polls?

  • Difficulties voting: There are always glitches, both machine and human. With record turnout predicted, there are sure to be long lines, but some places will be less prepared than others to move things along. Will these be limited to local snafus, or will there be a more systematic pattern among polling places in a given region or state?

  • Skittish news anchors: In eight years, they've gone from wanting to be the first to call the election to trying not to say anything at all. It's kind of funny.

Okay. Off I go. No matter who you support, I encourage you to stop by the local offices today at see if there's anything you can do. Even if you don't care now, I promise you will when you leave. Working with a campaign makes everything so much more tangible. And, hey! Snacks!


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