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Election Brings Flurry of Workers, Volunteers in NC

This story originally aired as part the 2016 WCQS Election Special which can be heard in its entirety here.  

This election has seemed to go on for ages, and election fatigue is a very real thing.  But if you think you’re tired, think about the people working the campaign.  From the campaign workers themselves to the volunteers, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work this election.

I wanted to find out what the election season was like for the actual people working it.  And with the campaigns in full swing, there’s no shortage of places to find them.  On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a Democratic campaign office in downtown Asheville was buzzing with activity.  Jim Cook, an Asheville volunteer had just gotten back from canvassing.  He’d spent about three hours in the hot sun, but he definitely wasn’t grouchy about it.

Jim Cook:  “I had a map and I used that and everything to find the locations was the main thing, but it was so nice visiting with the people.  I mean I had people that came out and we sat in a swing and we talked about different things that concerned ‘em and it was really nice.”

Door to door is one method the campaigns use to reach out to voters.  In a side room of the field office, another group of volunteers was hard at work.

Shawn Robins:  “Hi is this Janice?  Hi, this Shawn Robins.  I’m a volunteer with Democratic campaign here in Buncombe County trying to drum up support for Hillary Clinton this week in early voting, and I’m wondering if you’ve had a chance to vote yet?”

Shawn Robins had his cell phone out and a packet about 15 pages long with voter details.   

Robins:  “I have a list of registered voters in North Carolina that I’m calling and reminding them that early voting is happening right now and seeing if they need help finding out where to vote early or if they need a ride to the polls or anything like that.”

It can be grueling work.  Robins says about 90 percent of the calls go unanswered.

Robins: “It’s not tough but I don’t really enjoy it.  I’m not really a gregarious phone person and I don’t like calling people, cold calling.  But I’ve been here for a couple hours, went through a big long list… Didn’t get a lot of people but I feel like I’m doing something good.”

Nearby, Laleah Adams, another volunteer was hunched over a laptop.  She was entering the data gathered by volunteers like Robins and Cook. 

Laleah Adams:  “It’s easy.  And each time I come, it’s maybe from two to three hours, til I start seeing cross-eyed.”

If all that work goes according to plan, those volunteers will be pushing lots of voters on to see Joe Sheridan and Donner Lohnes.  They’re poll workers at Pack Library in downtown Asheville.  Lohnes says since early voting started October 20th, they’ve been filling one of two shifts to make sure things go smoothly.

Donner Lohnes:  “One is 10 until 2 and the other is 2 until 6.  But at 6:00 we then have to pull out all of the ballots and put them in order by precinct.  And that takes about 45 minutes.”

When I visited on that same Sunday, things were slow but steady, giving Lohnes and Joe Sheridan a chance to step away from directing voters to their voting booths and making sure they have what they need. 

Jeremy Loeb:  “Have you been working most of the days that this has been going on?”

Joe Sheridan: “Yes.  I’ve been working since they started on the 20th, every day except last Sunday which was closed.”

Loeb: “Does it get exhausting?”

Sheridan: “It gets exhausting when it’s slow because we get bored.  When people are in there, no, it’s not tiring.  It’s not exhausting.  You know I enjoy my work.  I enjoy what I’m doing here.”

And that’s a sentiment shared by Lohnes.

Lohnes:  “This is what America is about.  We want people to come out and vote, not to just sit around and post things on Facebook.  So yeah this is definitely very satisfactory.”

But the work isn’t done yet.  And the busiest day of them all, Election Day, is still to come.

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