Guest Column: Get out the Vote as national Bernie campaign comes to Ithaca

Last couple of weeks saw a rousing official campaign kickoff and field office opening in Ithaca. On Monday and Tuesday it was packed rallies in Binghamton, Syracuse, and other cities across New York. As if New York’s excitement over presidential candidate Bernie Sanders couldn’t pitch much higher, get this: The Empire State’s presidential primary election is on April 19 – less than a week away.

Working Families Party representative Jonathan Fuhrer (left), and Bernie campaign field organizers Michael Hall and Justin Ansley answer questions on April 3 at The Haunt during a kickoff meeting. Photo by Becky Chambers Hennessy provided.

Working Families Party representative Jonathan Fuhrer (left), and Bernie campaign field organizers Michael Hall and Justin Ansley answer questions on April 3 at The Haunt during a kickoff meeting. Photo by Becky Chambers Hennessy provided.

Now the question: Do you #FeelTheBern? If so, are you willing and able to vote? Of the state’s 20 million residents, only some 6 million registered Democrats are eligible to vote in the closed Democratic presidential primary. Unfortunately, a troubling majority of that number does not cast ballots, Jonathan Fuhrer of the Working Families Party (WFP) told 150 supporters gathered on April 3 at The Haunt for the campaign kickoff meeting.

The WFP has endorsed Bernie and is now working with Ithaca and Tompkins County for Bernie Sanders (“Ithaca for Bernie”) to both identify registered voters and “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) throughout the 23rd Congressional District (CD-23). According to Fuhrer, in the 2008 presidential election, 1.9 million people in New York voted, or about 9 percent of all residents. “So, how can we be most strategic,” Fuhrer said. “How can we be most effective with such a short amount of time before election day?”

By knocking on doors, is how. Volunteers have been canvassing neighborhoods, engaging in friendly, brief conversations about the primary. They’re asking which candidate you support and, if you’re undecided, they want to hear about the issues important to you. On Tuesday, April 19, will you know where your polling place is? What about voting hours – no? Maybe jot this down: In CD-23, the polls are open on the 19th only from noon to 9pm That’s right: The polls open at 12, not earlier. Also, while we’re at it, you may want to make sure of your polling place.

Why consider Bernie?

If you’ve already answered your door to a canvasser, you may have been pleasantly surprised to learn that Bernie Sanders addresses, in detail, his position on key issues and his U.S. economic agenda on his websites. Maybe you also were curious about why the canvasser supports Bernie. If it’s Ithaca volunteer Emily Adams at your doorstep, she might tell you that he’s won her vote in part because of his comprehensive plan for combating climate change.

“Only Senator Sanders talks about radical steps to try to save the future of our planet. These radical changes all require standing up to Big Oil and corporate greed, and only someone who is not bankrolled by these forces has any chance of stopping them,” said Adams, a CD-23 delegate and an Ithaca for Bernie volunteer since the group launched last July. “That, in a nutshell, is why I support Bernie Sanders. I want my children to have a future.”

Molly Grover, also a CD-23 delegate and national outreach coordinator for Women for Bernie, would welcome the chance to mention Bernie’s progressive view on women’s rights. “Bernie is a fierce advocate of pay equity, and he endeavors to expand opportunities for women and girls at every stage of life. He knows that when women prosper, families flourish, and our entire country ultimately grows stronger.”

The WFP’s Fuhrer would tell you he’s voting for Bernie “because we need a ‘Medicare for All,’ single-payer healthcare system in this country that covers everyone. You will pay less because the premiums, deductibles and co-pays cost much more out-of-pocket on an annual basis than the marginal tax you’ll pay. It will save your employer money, too.”

Bernie needs you

It may be that, like Fuhrer, Grover, and Adams, you already support Bernie Sanders. If so, please, grab a jacket and get over to the field office; the campaign needs you! If CD-23 field organizer Michael Hall has his way, Bernie supporters will join him and other volunteers every day until the primary to canvass and make phone calls. Hall, who hails from the national campaign, sat down with volunteers after arriving in Ithaca late last month. “Bernie wins when folks know who he is and what he stands for. He also wins when they show up to vote,” he said.

Volunteers Wendy and Aron Guttman (left); Bernie campaign field organizers Michael Hall and Justin Ansley; and volunteers Sanjana Batabyal (front) and Emily Adams at the new field office at 609 West Clinton Street, Suite 103, in Ithaca. Photo by Bob Grommes provided.

Volunteers Wendy and Aron Guttman (left); Bernie campaign field organizers Michael Hall and Justin Ansley; and volunteers Sanjana Batabyal (front) and Emily Adams at the new field office at 609 West Clinton Street, Suite 103, in Ithaca. Photo by Bob Grommes provided.

“People get busy. The polls are open, parents pick up their kids from school, and everyone’s hungry and tired. Encouraging them to vote early in the day, making sure they know where their polling place is – this is how we turn those who are planning to vote for Bernie into actual votes for Bernie.” The field office at 609 West Clinton Street, Suite 103, is open daily from 9am to 9pm. Stop by and ask how you can help and, if you have questions about election day, this is the place. Need a ride to the polls? Need information about voting by absentee ballot or voting for delegates? Contact Hall at the field office: michaelhall@berniesanders.com.

Also check out the events page on Bernie’s website where you’ll find many local opportunities, including an “Official Get Out the Vote Training” on April 15, from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. At what’s described as “the most important Bernie organizing meeting of the election,” attendees will be trained for GOTV and sign up for one or several of many available shifts. Remember: “That’s how we win!”

Field organizer Michael Hall and Ithaca for Bernie volunteer Emily Adams (standing) talk to other volunteers about canvassing in CD-23 before the April 19 primary election. Photo by Becky Chambers Hennessy provided.

Field organizer Michael Hall and Ithaca for Bernie volunteer Emily Adams (standing) talk to other volunteers about canvassing in CD-23 before the April 19 primary election. Photo by Becky Chambers Hennessy provided.

“This is make-or-break,” Adams said. “Please give the most valuable gift you can give for Bernie: Your time. Right now, in New York, he needs our volunteer efforts much more than he needs our money.” And, if you haven’t already, please join the Ithaca for Bernie Facebook group, visit the group’s website, and follow on Twitter @IthacaForBernie. And don’t forget to contact Adams at ithaca4bernie@hotmail.com and ask to be added to the Ithaca Bernletter e-mail list.

Cast that ballot

People often tell volunteers that they like Bernie, but wonder, “Is he electable?” The short answer to that is an emphatic “YES.” After all, he won eight out of the last nine contests, including one that counted the votes of Democrats living abroad. He can move on to win the election if, together, we ramp up voter turnout – and fast. Talking with volunteers, Hall spoke to the urgency of converting the nearly rock-concert enthusiasm for Bernie into votes.

“It’s one thing to post on Facebook and be like, ‘I’m for Bernie,’ or even have a bumper sticker on your car. It’s another to actually show up to the polls and cast that ballot.” Which is why Bernie’s national campaign has set up shop in communities throughout New York. To, quite simply, help supporters get to the polls on April 19 so that the most qualified candidate in the 2016 presidential election can win.

Becky Chambers Hennessy volunteers for Ithaca and Tompkins County for Bernie Sanders. She wrote a guest column about local Bernie Sanders efforts last fall.

This Guest Column is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of 14850 Magazine or its affiliates or advertisers.

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