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Obama volunteers pound the pavement

Registration drive kicks off Saturday

POSTED: July 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Adam Yalowitz, 19, a field organizer from Silver Springs, Md., and Janet Murray, a volunteer from Flowery Branch, talk to Zachary Chandler, 22, of Flowery Branch outside of Monique's Beauty Salon Saturday about an event for supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, the likely Democratic nominee for president.

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On a scorching summer morning, local supporters of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama were taking it to the streets.

Teams of volunteers armed with maps, clipboards, voter registration forms and campaign literature fanned out Saturday in East Gainesville neighborhoods with a mission to energize a predominately Democratic-leaning electorate.

"You registered to vote?" Cynetia Banks called out to the occupants of a car pulling into an Athens Street parking lot. When they shook their heads, she followed up. "Well, you need to come on over here and register right now."

Banks wasn’t shy about approaching friends and strangers alike in a high-traffic area along the Athens Street corridor.

"I’m a people person," she said. "I’ll ask anybody anytime."

Inside Monique’s Beauty Salon, an unofficial Obama precinct headquarters, Martha Randolph and Michelle Morrison queried their customers on their voter registration status.

If they indicated they weren’t registered, one or the other was likely to put a form in their hands while they styled their hair.

"It ain’t nothing but to put your name on a piece of paper," Morrison said. She said her personality usually wins folks over. "They’re like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’"

There are plenty of potential converts to the voting process to target. While there are 80,524 registered voters in Hall County, about 124,000 residents are of voting age. That means nearly 44,000 people in Hall County are old enough to vote but not registered, though not all are eligible.

Registering is not enough, though. Obama’s volunteers want to be sure that those inclined to vote for him make it to the polls.

"The best thing about this is it’s probably getting everybody motivated," Randolph said.

Banks said she’s weathered the sweltering heat because the Obama campaign has inspired her. The Illinois senator is likely to become the Democratic nominee for president at the party’s national convention in late August.

"This is history," she said of the first African-American to become a major party nominee for president. "A lot of people didn’t think they’d see this day."


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