Got a busy schedule this November?
Author Stephen Elliot will remind you to vote.
Elliot started Operation Ohio, a group of authors who will ask students to vote on Nov. 2 because he “wanted to stop writing and do something.”
The authors are asking college students in several swing states, including Pennsylvania, to send an e-mail with their name, school and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org. An author will call students individually on Nov. 2 to remind them to vote.
Elliott started Operation Ohio after finishing work on his latest book Looking Forward to It, which Elliot calls a political memoir. He spent a year traveling with President George W. Bush, Sen. John Kerry and Ralph Nader and democratic hopeful Gov. Howard Dean, from the primaries to the democratic convention.
He enlisted contemporary writers including Tobias Wolff, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers and Jonathan Lethem to travel the country hosting readings, all featuring a registration table.
When asked why he chose to get authors involved, he said, “I don’t know any rock bands. But I know writers, so it was a logical choice.”
Now with registration deadlines passed, attention shifts to the second phase of Operation Ohio’s political assault: Authors calling college students on Election Day and reminding them to vote. But why phone calls?
“If you’re into cooking, you should get a call from a chef. If you like race cars, you should get a call from a race car driver,” Elliot said.
“Getting authors to make phone calls is the easy part. Everyone was willing to sit at home and make phone calls for two hours.” Elliott said. He added that all the writers he asked were more than willing to get involved. “They all wanted to help but didn’t know what they could do.”
Elliott said he has received around 500 e-mails from college students so far but is hoping to get 3,000 to 5,000.
Operation Ohio does not promote any one candidate, only that citizens fulfill their duties to vote. When asked why he thinks getting out the vote is so important, Elliott replied, “Ask any political scientist. High voter turnout will transform both parties. The Republican Party can be the party of Lincoln again.”
Operation Ohio is not the only organization making an effort to remind people to vote on Election Day. National Voice, a nonpartisan organization aimed at increasing voter turnout, has launched a campaign called November 2. It is an umbrella organization that coordinates the activities of more than 1,000 voter mobilization organizations all over the country.
Through T-shirts, iron-ons, stickers, hats, buttons and lots of other goodies with simply “November 2” emblazoned on them, National Voice hopes to raise interest among nonvoters.
“You want people to come up and ask you what the shirt is all about so you can engage them in conversation about voting,” said the executive director of National Voice, Mark Ritchie. “I get 15 to 20 questions about it a day.”
November 2’s mission is to “harness the energy and enthusiasm of new voters, whose participation could reinvigorate the face of the American political landscape,” according to their Web site www.november2.org.
November 2 has even contracted the team behind Nike’s advertisements to execute a full-scale marketing campaign to reinforce the importance of voting on Nov. 2.
According to U.S. Census statistics, “too busy” was the No. 1 reason for people not voting in the 2000 election.
Federal law says that full-time employees are allowed to take two hours off on Election Day in order to vote. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Pennsylvania on Election Day.
To find out where to vote, you can visit The Committee of Seventy’s Web site at www.seventy.org. You must know which Ward and Division you are registered in, which can be found on your voter registration card. If you have questions about where you are registered, call 215-557-3600.
Brendan Keegan can be reached at email@example.com.