It ain't over 'till it's over.-- Yogi Berra
Don't get cocky, kid!-- Han Solo
FINISH HIM!-- Mortal Kombat and tongodeon
I believe that in a generation, we'll look back on next Tuesday as the day hope beat fear. But there's still a chance that fear wins yet again. Obama leads in the polls, but 2000 and 2004 showed the strength of Republican vote suppression techniques. Polls measure how people say they'll vote, but they may not account for the people who try to vote and are prevented. Vote suppression takes many forms: challenging voters (because their driver's license has a middle initial but their voter file does not), misinformation (many Democrats and independents in Virginia received a flier telling them to vote next Wednesday... when it will be too late), poor resource allocation (the big story from Ohio in 2004 was few machines and long lines in black areas but sufficient machines and short lines in white areas), and purges of voter rolls.
Even without intentional voter suppression, elections have a significant margin of error. Voters might have a family crisis crop up and not make it to the polls. Voters can get confused by voting machines or ballot layouts. Touch screen voting machines can be miscalibrated (the official story on why West Virginia voters find their selection of Obama switching to McCain or third party candidates). Mail-in ballots can get lost in the mail or never delivered to voters (Sequoia Voting Systems made an error and didn't print ballots for 11,000 of a batch of 21,000 Denver absentee voters). These are important issues, and may work to the advantage of one side. It's important not to assume malice when incompetence is more likely. It's even more important to make sure neither malice or incompetence has a chance to affect the outcome.
The 2000 election came down to Florida having a vote spread that was within the margin of error. (New Mexico was also that close, but didn't have enough electoral votes to change the outcome.) Even though Obama is leading in the polls, it's important to get as many supporters to vote as possible. The Obama campaign needs to run up the score in swing states to be sure they're above the margin of error so there's no opportunity for the election to be lost through malice (voter suppression, electronic vote hacking) or incompetence (machine or human error on the part of election organizers or voters). Don't let Colorado become The Florida of the West.
You can do your part to help hope win. Obama's website has lots of information about where and when you can volunteer. Their focus is making sure their supporters get to the polls. Volunteer tasks include walking door-to-door with a clipboard or sitting in an office and making phone calls. At this point, if you volunteer you will only talk to people you know support the same candidate. You won't get into an argument with someone who thinks your candidate is a terrorist. You won't have to convince someone who's undecided. All you have to do is ask people "Have you voted yet?" If they have, check them off and nobody will bother them further. If they haven't, make sure they know where their polling place is and that it closes at 7pm. I'm an introvert, but I spent part of my Sunday afternoon canvassing and had a great time. I'm uncomfortable talking to strangers and I can do this. So can you. The Colorado forecast for this is for warm weather and streets full of dry leaves. You'll want to take a walk anyway; contact your local Obama office to canvass. You'll spend three hours enjoying the weather, getting exercise, and helping make history. If you don't live in a swing state or don't like walking, sign up for phone banking. If McCain pulls off an upset, you won't be able to do anything about it next Wednesday. Let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
If you can spare a few hours on Tuesday (Election Day), even better. I just signed up to be a poll checker -- comparing the precinct list of people who voted with the campaign's list. If you want to volunteer for that sort of job, you need advanced training, so get in contact soon. They also need canvassers and phone bankers, so show up for a shift if you can. If you volunteer, you'll be able to tell your kids "I did my part to elect an amazing president." Not only that, you'll get one of the most charismatic and thoughtful presidents of the last sixty years. If you don't help get out the vote and a McCain victory in Colorado proves the pivot point for the whole electoral college, you'll spend the next four years with a nagging sense of responsibility every time you grumble about the state of the nation.
I don't agree with everything Obama wants to do and I look forward to opportunities to improve upon his plans. But I'm doing what I can to help him get elected because I think they're the best plans we've had in years. If Obama wins, I feel like the federal government will be on the road to getting better. If McCain wins, I fear the government will only get worse. I hope in a generation I'll have to make a tough choice between the Democrats, Republicans, and other parties. But the McCain campaign has continued the practices that are killing the Republican Party's credibility and value to society. They need to hit rock bottom so they can rebuild right. If McCain gets elected, it will only prolong the victim's suffering.