Saturday, October 25, 2008

Making Sure Polls on Election Day = Polls Where Obama Is Today

As we move into the last 10 days before the most important election of our time, it is well to bear in mind the world of difference between two processes that have the same name: polls (as in surveys about how people will be voting) and polls (the places in which people actually cast their votes.

Surveys are useful tools, and have been generally accurate over the years. But they are not infallible, indeed have been wrong a few crucial times in our history, and in plain fact elect no one. The reasons poll-surveys have been in error almost don't matter. But they range from deliberately or accidentally biased samples - the people questioned are not representative of the general population - to people just not telling the truth when asked about their voting intentions. Infamous examples of polls being wrong range from the 1936 Literary Digest poll predicting Alf Landon's victory over FDR in that election to polls for the New Hampshire Democratic primary earlier this year which showed Obama winning comfortably. Pollsters learn from their mistakes. But there is no way to learn from a mistake you do not realize you are making - until the actual vote at the polls proves your poll-survey wrong.

Just to be clear - most polls, the vast majority of them, have been correct in their prediction. But the stakes are so high in this election, that those of us who support Obama can't gamble, even with the odds so heavily in our favor, that the current polls showing Obama leading in so many states are right.

Fortunately, we do not have to gamble. We can make sure we get to the polls - the place where we cast our votes - on Election Day. We can encourage, cajole, pressure our friends and family to go to the polls on Tuesday, November 4 - or, any day before the election, if your state has early voting. You can get an account on, and get a list of phone numbers of voters that you can start calling any time, when you have a few minutes, with encouragement to vote for Obama.

We shouldn't think for a minute that we're voting on an equal playing field. Not only is it possible that the current polls may not be accurate, that voters might change their minds between now and Election Day, but Republicans are doing their best to discourage and suppress Democratic voters. In Alabama, for example, citizens with parking tickets and no criminal record whatsoever were sent notices that they would not be able to vote. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast have also written an important article in Rolling Stone about the Republican attempt to stifle democracy and freedom in this election.

We all have it in our power to not let this happen. It's as easy voting and getting everyone we know to polls. Let's prove the pollsters right this time, and make the current polls showing Obama handily winning to be in complete 100% agreement with what happens at the polls on Election Day.
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