So, my adventure into the Ron Paul campaign for liberty started like most everyone else that I've spoken with. I was fed up screaming at the TV and the internet and wanted to do something meaningful. This led me to begin researching the Louisiana election process, which from the get-go seemed overwhelmingly and unnecessarily complicated. This was compounded by the fact that I've only lived in New Orleans for about 6 months at the time, being a recent transplant from Michigan.
I read from some sources that we had a primary, other sources that we had a caucus, and from yet others that we had both. So, I set about finding the Ron Paul HQ in my area to see if they could educate me and to see how I might help out.
I found a weekly meeting in New Orleans, where I live, ran by possibly one of the nicest women I've ever met. She walked me through the LA process which had been transformed just this year into a primary-first, caucus-second state. Previously the caucus had come first but I was told that we were so well organized that the establishment GOP had pushed the date back to give the other campaigns time to catch up to us.
She offered to show me how to do phone-banking, which was our task at the time to do voter identification tasks. I had some previous plans and couldn't stay for the whole meeting that day, but she did get me to sign up as a Precinct Captain. I didn't know yet at the time, but I'd just taken the leap down the rabbit hole.
For the next couple of weeks I came and dilligently made calls for about 2-3 hours during the meetings. But I felt I could and should be doing more so I asked if I could sign-out one of the campaign phones so I could use it to be calling from home every night. This was a targeted list of LA voters, not the Phone-From-Home stuff.
This continued up until our primary. I was prepared with the fact that we weren't expected to do well in the primary but we wanted to use the fact that they'd moved the caucus after the primary to our advantage. So we set about doing exit polling at the primary and we identified Ron Paul voters who we could contact afterwards (to avoid any illegal electioneering at the primary site on election day) to give them details on the caucus.
It went great! I'd found a grand total of about 2 supporters in all of my phone-banking. I think I got a dozen just from the exit polls. I'd also presented myself to the organizers of the election, explained I'd be doing exit polling, to come to me if they had any problems with what I was doing, and I also offered to help them out in any way I could. I feel like making friends first is always the best way to start any effort like this. They ended up bringing out chairs for us (my girlfriend helped for awhile) and also candy and doughnuts throughout the day
After the primary we were informed by HQ that our days of making phone calls were done. They were bringing in interns and setting up a permanent phonebank in Baton Rouge to handle all that tedious stuff. They wanted us to have boots on the ground to knock on some doors. Fantastic!
Well, since I'm in the computer industry, I'd previously volunteered to our local director (who had been holding our meetings) to help with any kind of technical needs we might have in that regard. So I was asked to help coordinate walking maps for the Greater New Orleans area. No problem I thought...
...until it turns out that our director is running as a delegate and she has her own tasks to perform trying to turn out voters for herself. So, I naturally fall into the slot of organizing and coordinating all of our non-delegate volunteers to do canvassing efforts.
We began by just doing straight-up door-to-door canvassing in the neighborhoods surrounding the caucus sites. It seemed logical that if we could find supporters near the sites they had a higher likelihood of turning out. We started out doing this 2-3 nights a week and it quickly became an every-night deal. Thankfully we had several awesome volunteers step-up to lead some nights, so I wasn't out all the time, but I was putting together our walking routes and then collating all the data we discovered.
Soon we realized that we could hone down our canvassing even further by using some old supporter lists we had where we had past donor's names and street addresses but no phone number or email to contact them. So I set about trimming out all of that information from massive lists of supporters, organizing them by city or region, plotting them out on maps, and finding volunteers to take lists to drive around and knock on doors. Kudos again to my girlfriend for helping me to get started with that effort.
This was probably the most rewarding yet most exhausting part of my volunteering experience. We got tremendous results using these lists often being able to inform and educate dozens of Ron Paul supporters every night about the caucus. Because, remember, it doesn't matter if they support Ron Paul if they don't know where/when/how to vote and 99.9% of Louisiana had no idea about the caucus.
I was at this point spending probably at least 5-6 hours a day now, on top of my 9-5 IT job, putting together lists, plotting maps, collecting and organizing data from our volunteers, pleading for more volunteers to take lists, and fielding questions from our delegates and non-delegate volunteers alike. I was getting burned out.
Yet it wasn't over, there was still work to do. With about a week and a half to go until the caucus I was asked to be site coordinator for the caucus site in the heart of New Orleans. No problem, I figured. I was already linked in with a lot of our volunteers so finding recruits to help shouldn't be a problem.
Well, about 3-4 days later (with only a week or so to go until the caucus) the overall caucus coordinator for the state realizes that I can't vote in the caucus. Well, I knew that all along because I had registered too late (the cut-off was in Dec 2011, since the caucus was originally slated for Jan 2012 but they didn't push back the cut-off when they pushed back the caucus). So, since I didn't need to vote at any particular location I had more flexibility in where I could be site coordinator. So, they asked me to coordinate Gretna which is across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, on the west bank.
So, I quickly scrambled to try to get volunteers for the caucus day in Gretna. The volunteer base was much smaller so that was difficult, but I managed to get about 10 people signed up. However, as the morning of the caucus rolled around there were only 3 other people that showed up. So, we couldn't do a lot of what we planned to do but the Gretna caucus was small so that was alright. I set up 2 volunteers to do check-in and to hand out information; the third to oversee the registrations, ballots being handed out, and ballots being put into the boxes; and I just roamed the area doing whatever else that needed to be done. I also chatted up with as many people as I could to try and build goodwill and let them know I wasn't there to cause trouble but just to support my preferred candidate.
Thankfully we had a woman who was really nice running the caucus and from everything I witnessed it was on the up-and-up. She didn't seem to be an establishment person but rather just an active Tea Partier that they'd recruited to run it because the LA GOP didn't have anyone else to do it. I started the day by introducing myself, offering to help her in any way possible if she needed it, laid out some of my expectations (such as observing the vote and photographing the results, etc), and then I talked to her about her interests and involvement in the Tea Party. That all really seemed to help keep things running smoothly. Again, keeping things friendly is the best way to go in my opinion. No need to get combatative until things turn ugly and you have to.
The caucus itself is a bit of a blur. I was so anxious and those 4 hours just flew by. We had one report of someone receiving a ballot that had already been filled out in support of Romney but the person bringing the complaint to me didn't have the ballot and I doubted the veracity of it. I'd been watching the ballots being handed out and put into the boxes, and had a volunteer doing it. We hadn't seen anything fishy.
I was cautiously optimistic based on the number of supporters we had coming in or talking to our delegates that were campaigning on-site, but I was very nervous when we finally got to the vote count. Then the caucus director, as she was sorting out the ballots, said, "Wow, slate #7 looks *very* popular..."
And that was the beginning of our win. Our pile grew so much you could visibly see we'd won. It was just a matter of getting the official tally.
I won't get into the details of the voting or how I heard results rolling in from elsewhere across the state, those have been written about here on the boards already. But the bottom line was that we'd all been toiling for months and I'd personally gotten to the point that I was just incredibly tired and burned out but...
It was all worth it! We won!
And that's the story of how I walked into a meeting to pick up some information and eventually ended up coordinating much of our grassroot efforts in southeastern Lousiana, hehe
Now, there is still work to be done to prepare for the state convention. I'm well aware of that and while I'm not part of our delegation I'll be doing anything and everything I can to help. So don't worry, we're not going to drop the ball and go to sleep.
Also, I've ommitted a lot of troubles and trials we had in dealing with the official campaign when it came to our grassroots efforts but after our huge successes over the weekend I don't feel the need nor want to start pointing fingers. We did the best we could, and it was enough
Sorry for the long post, I just felt the need to share my experience after such an exhilirating weekend. I hope you've enjoyed it