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Memo: Election Night and Year Out Organizing Efforts Update

By now most of you have seen some of the results from yesterday’s elections. Voters in Ohio overwhelmingly rejected Governor John Kasich’s anti-worker bill, standing strong against a Republican agenda that seeks to put a greater economic burden on the shoulders of hardworking middle-class families.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx cruised to re-election with more than 67% of the vote, demonstrating strong Democratic support in a North Carolina city where voter turnout and support will be critical for President Obama in 2012.

At the local level, in Wake County, North Carolina, Democratic incumbent school board member Kevin Hill defeated challenger Heather Losurdo in a hard-fought runoff. As the News & Observer noted, the win completed a “Democratic election sweep that knocks Republicans out of power after a turbulent two-year reign.”

Maine voters came out strongly in support of restoring same-day voter registration, ensuring that all citizens in the state who are eligible have a chance to participate in the democratic process.

In Kentucky, a deep red state, voters re-elected a Democratic governor and attorney general—who defeated a Tea Party-backed opponent—and also elected Democrats to secretary of state, and state auditor.

These and other results make two issues clear: voters are rejecting the extreme agenda of the Republican Party, and the organizing efforts of progressive volunteers and supporters are making a difference.

As many of you know, this past Sunday marked one year until the 2012 election. As part of this milestone, supporters of Barack Obama came together across the country and organized 2,120 local grassroots events, ranging from voter registration drives in Nevada, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Missouri; to voter education drives in places like Wisconsin and Colorado aimed at protecting voting rights; to get out the vote drives in Ohio, Virginia, Maine, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Indiana; to direct voter contact events in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Washington.

And last night, in a variety of states, we saw the fruits of these labors when we were able to help elect Democrats to local and statewide offices, as well as win a number of important ballot initiatives.

The goal of this year out organizing drive was to focus on state and local organizing priorities while reinforcing our core campaign organizing goals: building our neighborhood teams, bringing new voters into the political process, reaching out directly to core constituencies, building the most expansive GOTV operation ever, and protecting voters' rights.

By all these measures, this past week has been a huge success.

Building & training neighborhood teams
In all of our organizing work, our main goal is to build our volunteer neighborhood teams—the group of leaders who take ownership over a set of precincts, coordinate outreach efforts in that community, and ultimately turn out the voters they register, persuade and mobilize. Last week, we confirmed our thousandth 2012 neighborhood team leader—Thomas S. from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This week, we continued to recruit, train, and test additional leaders and strengthen existing teams.

Colorado had 537 volunteers participate in its Day of Action on Saturday—with 58 staging locations run by volunteer leaders. In addition to thousands of one-on-one conversations on the phones and at the doors, Colorado volunteers scheduled 118 one-on-one meetings, where they will sit down face-to-face with Obama supporters and independents in the state.

In the past few days, we also opened campaign offices in Portsmouth (NH), Minneapolis (MN), Ann Arbor (MI), Henderson (NV), Fort Collins (CO), and St. Louis (MO). We just finished opening six additional offices in Wisconsin—Madison, Green Bay, Waukesha, Kenosha, and two in Milwaukee—after opening a host of local offices in Iowa over the past few weeks. The local offices will serve as campaign headquarters for our local neighborhood teams—meeting places to strategize, socialize, and reach out to voters in their communities. We have been opening an average of three offices per week in the past month.

Bringing new voters into the political process
In 2008, we changed Democratic presidential campaigns forever by focusing on voter registration despite the pundits and the political elites telling us it was too inefficient and difficult to accomplish on a national scale. We continue to be a movement committed to expanding the electorate, to bringing new people into the process. This week we accelerated our 2011 voter registration drive in critical locations.

In Nevada, we continued to run our 2011 voter registration drive with our in-state neighborhood teams in partnership with volunteer leaders from sister state California. In one day, volunteers collected 708 voter registrations forms in Las Vegas, bringing hundreds of new people into the political process. In California and Nevada, they also made tens of thousands of calls to Nevada voters, talking to them about President Obama’s American Jobs Act and getting them engaged in our campaign on the ground.

In Missouri, volunteers organized over 41 local events, a mixture of voter registration, outreach to previous Obama volunteers, and canvassing neighborhoods. On Saturday alone, volunteers registered 404 new voters. One of my favorite anecdotes from our year out events came from St. Louis: a volunteer registering voters in a housing complex had just finished registering an older woman when a young man from the second floor popped his head out the window, asked what she was doing and came down to register. “I just turned 18,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do this last time. I can’t wait to be there for Barack this time.”

Reaching core constituencies
Just as we did in 2008, we are committed to running a campaign that includes voters and communities from across the country. A major part of our organizing actions, as part of our Operation Vote efforts, is focused on mobilizing supporters and voters in African American, Latino, youth, Asian American Pacific Islander, LGBT, veterans, and many other communities. Historically that work has started late on campaigns. Not this time.

Throughout the state of Florida we had more than 3,500 personal conversations with voters and volunteers this past weekend, many of them focused on reaching out to diverse constituencies across the state. For example, an Obama for America volunteer, Fedorah P., organized a Creole-language training for the Haitian community in Orlando. Fedorah, a student at UCF, ran the training and then led our Haitian supporters in a Creole-specific outreach phone bank.

In the North Carolina mayor’s race mentioned above, volunteers not only continued our ongoing phone banks and canvasses of voters who the pundits believe will stay home in off-year races, they also engaged in a targeted and strategic faith and community outreach program. Fifty-four percent of all 2011 early voters are African-American, in large part due to a volunteer “Souls to the Polls” GOTV drive.

Getting out the vote
Over the course of the coming year, our goal is to build a campaign infrastructure led by more than 20,000 trained and tested volunteer neighborhood teams. Our year out events have mobilized these groups in key states while at the same time supporting important local and statewide elections.

In Ohio, our success last night was a shared effort between a number of groups opposed to taking away the rights of workers. For our part, neighborhood teams continued what has been a GOTV marathon for the past several months. After an unbelievable six-week sprint to collect over 300,000 signatures to halt a Republican-backed voter suppression bill in Ohio (the bill will now be on the ballot for voters to decide in 2012), volunteers in the state turned their efforts to mobilizing voters to stop Republican Governor Kasich’s anti-worker legislation. Volunteers ran GOTV staging locations and had conversations with tens of thousands of supporters, educating them on when, where, and how to vote.

To earn 270 electoral votes, we will continue to strive toward our core goals: build strong neighborhood teams; expand the electorate; reach out to voters in all communities; and drive voters to the polls. This week—one year before Election Day—and during yesterday’s elections across the country, we all took huge strides in accomplishing these goals.

Last night’s results are only the beginning. We will continue our historic organizing efforts community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, voter by voter, day by day.

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Jeremy Bird, National Field Director