Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 5, 2012

Get-out-the-vote efforts intensify in Michigan

DETROIT (AP) — Party officials are gearing up for Tuesday's election with get-out-the-vote efforts aimed at driving Michigan voters to the polls.

On the Republican side, campaign staffers and an army of volunteers planned to knock on 200,000 doors and make 500,000 calls in the final week alone, said Kelsey Knight, spokeswoman for the "Victory Program," a joint effort of the state party, the Republican National Committee and the Mitt Romney campaign.

For the entire election cycle, 8,000 volunteers have helped knock on 1 million doors and make 2.5 million calls, Knight said.

"We have never seen a surge in volunteers in Michigan like we have seen in this election," Knight said. "They have made three times more phone calls and 21 times more door knocks than this time in (2008)."

Bill Barron, a 73-year-old General Motors retiree from Oxford, was bitten on the hand by a German shepherd as he knocked on doors in Oakland County. He called the police and drove to a hospital for a precautionary shot before returning that day to complete his appointed rounds in the neighborhood.

"I was bleeding quite a bit," said Barron, insisting he always planned to return to knock on the remaining doors.

Democrats are were making a last-minute push to get voters to polling places, although they didn't provide specific numbers.

"Right up to the moment the polls close on Tuesday, thousands of the president's supporters in Michigan will be fanning out across the state to remind our voters about what's at stake in this election for middle-class families and their communities," said Casey Stavropoulos, spokeswoman for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in the state. "Our efforts combine both tried-and-true techniques like calling and door-knocking, along with newer social media technologies that empower every one of our supporters be a part of this campaign in a firsthand way."

Partisans, however, aren't the only ones encouraging Michigan residents to exercise their right to vote.

The secretary of state's mobile office visited every public university in Michigan as well as some community centers and community colleges to register people to vote. Staff members attended a number of naturalization ceremonies to offer new citizens the opportunity to register.

And members of the National Network for Arab American Communities, which is comprised of 22 Arab-American organizations in 11 states, went door-to-door this past week, handing out bilingual voter education material.

The effort comes at the end of a months-long national voter registration and civic engagement campaign that included door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, debate watch parties, candidates' forums and mailers in Michigan as well as other states that have sizable Arab-American populations such as New York, California, Florida and Illinois.

Voter turnout in Michigan could lag behind what it was four years ago, despite the sizable get-out-the-vote efforts and a wealth of races including president, U.S. Senate, Congress and five statewide ballot issues.

While the secretary of state's office declined to provide a voter turnout prediction, the clerk's offices in populous Oakland and Macomb counties expected turnout there to be less than it was four years ago.

Oakland is expecting 70 percent turnout, down from 72.5 percent in 2008, while Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh said she thinks it'll drop about 5 percentage points to around 65 percent turnout in her county.

Sabaugh attributed the expected lower turnout to a larger number of eligible voters and possibly less interest in this year's election.

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