Wisconsin's Recall Drama Down to Nail-Biting Finish
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“We could have conversations at a level of detail about collective bargaining and what it meant at a level we'd never been able to have,” Pape continued. “Since this recall effort has been in high gear we've been coordinating with We Are Wisconsin to talk directly to the voters.”
Leah Luke had taken a break from calling a list of 50 voters in her neighborhood to speak with AlterNet Sunday morning. “It's really encouraging to me personally to make these calls, to have people say 'Absolutely, we're going to be there, don't worry about that honey!' It's good to talk to people who aren't just union people.”
Shannon Duffy, knocking doors in Milwaukee's lower-income neighborhoods, said, “I have never been treated so well knocking on doors during a campaign, people shaking my hand, calling me brother, saying we have to get Walker out of there. Every four-way stop had at least two huge signs on it that just said 'Vote Walker Out' with a huge exclamation point.”
“One of the things that we're really trying to do in this election that's different than many is really to focus on much more neighbors talking to neighbors, friends talking to friends, coworkers talking to coworkers,” Colburn explained. “In Milwaukee we've had an adopt-a ward effort -- three or four activists in a ward are building ward committees, to take some ownership, to talk to neighbors. At SEIU we've had an ongoing program of members talking to members who voted in 2008 but didn't vote in 2010. It's not usually changing their minds, it's a combination of explaining that it's important enough to vote and taking responsibility to have that conversation.”
Outside volunteers—rather than the outside cash fueling Walker's campaign—have been an important part of the effort as well. The AFL-CIO has a tool that allows activists to match their Facebook friends with the voter file so that they can do personalized outreach, and groups like Democracy for America have been rallying supporters to make get-out-the-vote phone calls as well as traveling to the state to knock doors—an email from the group says they hit 15,342 doors on Saturday alone.
Duffy explained his involvement in the recall: “We just came up, it wasn't like we got a phone call. People are just walking in, saying, 'Hi, I'm from Cleveland, can I help?' People are getting in their cars and driving here, going to We Are Wisconsin offices, labor councils. This is not like labor reaching out its tentacles, these are people saying, 'I've got to be a part of this' and just jumping in their cars.”
“Just to know that we have that support outside of the state, that people are aware of what our situation is and are rooting for us, it really helps invigorate the work that we're doing here,” Luke added.
Of course, not all the out-of-state activists are there to get out the anti-Walker vote. Luckily for the grassroots campaign, Wisconsin's vote-suppressing Voter ID bill won't be in effect for the recall, but voter suppression remains a problem. “When you have national tea party folks being bused and flown into the state, they're not here to get out the vote,” Mary Bell said. “They tried before and I believe they will continue to try to suppress the vote in places where people will be frightened away from casting their ballot.”
Early voting in Wisconsin ended Friday, but if informal reports are accurate, turnout is at record levels already. Pape, Duffy and Bell noted that they were coming across lots of voters on canvass lists who'd already waited in lines, sometimes for over an hour (even on Memorial Day) to cast their ballots. “They want to make sure that they are not disenfranchised this time,” Bell said.