10/27/2008 06:33 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Campaign Journal: Canvassing in C'Ville

Gail South is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.

Five o'clock Saturday afternoon just after a long rainstorm is a good time to find people at home. First stop, a tiny white house with rusted chairs and boxes of junk on the porch. Through the window, I see the ballgame on a large, flat-screen TV. A black man cracks the door open.


"Hi, I'm Gail and this is Dave. We're volunteers with the Obama campaign, just here to remind you to vote November 4."

The door opens wider, a robust black man steps forward. Smiling. "I'm gonna vote for sure."

I look at my sheet. "You have a couple of housemates?"

"Oh, they'll be voting too."



"And you know about Warner and Periello?"

"Yep, democrat all the way, you can count on it."

I give him a thumbs up. "You're a good man," I say as I step off the porch.

Back and forth across the street, if they're not home, we leave our calling card, large blue VOTE NOV 4. On the reverse side, the democratic candidates. If they answer the door, we remind them. Most say they're definitely planning to vote. But a young black girl, eighteen, looks scared. Says she doesn't know if she'll vote. A black man, maybe her father, says she just moved here from Nelson County to live with him. Doesn't even know if she's registered. I say that according to my list, she is. We're talking about her as if she wasn't standing between us.

"And I hope you'll vote for Barack," I say, looking into her confused eyes. "It's a really important election."

She looks down and shrugs. The white woman next to the man says she's registered, she votes at Clark. "When did you register?" she asks the eighteen-year-old. "At school." I have to strain to hear her.

"Will you vote?" I ask. She looks at her feet and shrugs again. I give her the reminder card and walk on.

We're canvassing the trailer parks and low-rent houses of the back streets of Charlottesville, VA, just blocks from the million dollar homes on Park Street. These are roads I've never been on though I've lived on the outskirts of town for twelve years and know Park Street well. I was put off by the campaign plan of visiting every supporter four times in the last few weeks before the election. But after seeing some of the blank stares when I remind people to vote, I think it's not such a bad idea.

Getting all those newly registered voters to the polls will change the outcome of the election, even if it doesn't decide the presidency. Over the last two months of volunteering, I've spoken to many people who are in their thirties, forties, and fifties who registered to vote this year for the first time. There was picture of a 101-year-old woman in the local paper. She has never voted before, but cast her ballot early for Barack Obama.

That's change I can believe in.

We ended our Saturday night canvass in a trailer park separated from the backside of Lexus Nexus by a wide parking lot and a small road. A group of young boys, white and black alike, are hanging out in the trailer park.

"Are you Obama people?" an eight-year-old yells.

"Yes we are," I say.

"Are you going to vote for Obama?"

"I've already voted for Obama," I say.

"Thank you!" he says, running over, arms outstretched.

I lean over and give him a big hug.