Working the Vote

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Tuesday is election day and Marilyn Englander is among the legion of volunteers urging their fellow citizens to not sit this one out.

I’ve been volunteering at a phone bank to get out the vote. Though I hate getting those calls myself and didn’t want to do it, I needed to calm my worries about voter apathy.

The first day I reported to an empty store downtown re-purposed for election work. Creaking wood floors, a dusty smell, flickering fluorescent lights.

At tables along the wall, 30 people were hunched over laptops, peering at the screens. There was hardly a soul under 70 but a buzz of youthful energy filled the air.

Someone showed me the ropes and I settled in. At the next table, a woman very hard of hearing was shouting into her phone: “Hello! I’m a fellow citizen urging you to vote on November 6. Are you aware of this important election?” Very earnest.


Eavesdropping on other volunteers, I was surprised – actually humbled --- by how informed they were, and their passion as they reached out to folks hundreds of miles away in districts I couldn’t locate on a map. It was inspiring.

Nervously I dialed my first number – no answer. I felt relief. The second --- no answer. And a third...When finally someone did pick up, I was past my dread. I felt useful.

A 60-ish woman proudly informed me, “I haven’t voted since Nixon --- vowed I never would again --- but here I am lecturing my nieces and making them promise to come with me to the polls. I’m in again!”

A 40-year-old man admitted he didn’t much like his choice of candidates, but he sure wasn’t going to sit it out this time. He had opinions to voice. Several twenty-somethings were grateful for advice on how to vote. A 93-year-old crowed, “Don’t worry! I already voted.”

All around me volunteers were chatting amiably, often laughing. The atmosphere was warm. Hopeful. Energized.

Connecting to other citizens --- in that noisy room and across the miles --- eased my mind. It also renewed my faith in government... by the people.

With a Perspective, this is Marilyn Englander.

Marilyn Englander is a North Bay educator and founder of REAL SchoolMarin.