Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Sun Rises on Dallas Voters

By Jim Lane

DALLAS – It was snowing when we went out scrambling to find Obama literature last night, the night before primary election day. The “campaign offices” are in people’s houses and all sorts of oddball places. We found most of what we were looking for at a florist’s. They didn’t have any yard signs, but a few conventional signs and some handout literature. I had trouble sleeping, but it wasn’t a bad night.

The morning paper had the final totals for Dallas County early voting. The Republicans had quadrupled their vote since 2004, 8,433 to 33,787. Democrats went from 13,058 to 123,021 – an increase of 940%!

This morning, we were at the polls a half hour before they opened. The snow had stopped and didn’t stick on the ground, but the radio said bridges were iced over. That will hurt voter turnout. North Texans are afraid of ice. Snow tires and chains are unknown here. People who move in from the South are lost on ice, and people who move here from the North say we’re all incompetent drivers. Ice storms, once or twice a year, usually create hundreds of fenderbenders and a few serious wrecks. This wasn’t an ice storm, but just a report of ice will keep some people from coming out early.

Sure enough, we didn’t see hundreds of people at the polls, just a decent turnout somewhat higher than other times that we’ve stood outside that same station. My partner put up Obama signs and distributed Obama literature, while I did push cards for our high profile gay female sheriff. I didn’t wear both gloves because it’s hard to separate the little push cards from the stack, so I had one hand and both ears freezing.

About half of the first voters were probably from our growing gay community. Stonewall Democrats is a real force in Dallas politics. They seemed very positive about the sheriff, but didn’t comment on Obama. There were a few grim Republicans who wouldn’t even look at us, but almost everybody was very pleasant and cooperative. We felt good about the push cards, because so many of the voters didn’t seem sure of what they were going to do on down-ballot candidates.

As they came out of the polls, it was really easy to tell who was who, because the Democratic Precinct Chair was in there giving out “I voted” stickers. People wore them proudly, along with big bright smiles. The sun finally peeped up over the trees and created a hopeful illusion of warmth. As the world continued to brighten, we noticed a big elm tree with new leaves budding. The redbud and whitebud trees are in full magnificent bloom. In Dallas, we’re turning the corner away from icy winter and the Bush years.

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