Knocking on doors in PA 6

I spent most of Sunday knocking on doors in Pennsylvania’s 6th Congressional District, getting out the vote for President Barack Obama and Dr. Manan Trivedi.

For the past month, my oldest daughter has been an intern with the Trivedi campaign. She turned 18 at the end of October, so this will be her first election as a voter. She found out about this internship on her own, applied, and has been working tirelessly after school and on weekends ever since. I canvassed with her one day in Phoenixville and was impressed by her ability to answer voters’ questions on the issues and where Trivedi stands on them.

I’m enormously proud of her.

Trivedi is a good guy — a former combat surgeon in Iraq. He faces an uphill battle against incumbent Jim Gerlach. It’s not that Gerlach is popular, or that he has an impressive record in Congress. But he’s running for re-election in a Gerlach-mandered district, redrawn to give him a lopsided advantage in registered voters.

Seriously, just look at the 6th, 7th and 16th districts on this map. The 7th has a longer external boundary than Texas. It’s a corruptagon. This is what gerrymandering looks like when its done by people who are both: A) incapable of subtly; and B) unconcerned with hiding what they’re doing.

So tomorrow I’m working for my daughter and Dr. Trivedi, driving voters to the polls and doing whatever else it is she/he needs me to do.

One fun side effect of my daughter’s campaign work: yesterday she ran into BooMan, who was also out volunteering for GOTV. I knew he lived nearby, but I’ve never met him myself because we have nothing in common — he’s a liberal blogger who grew up in Jersey, and … oh, wait.

Anyway, the point there is that if a couple of introverted bloggers can go out to knock on doors and GOTV, then you can maybe do it too.

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  • storiteller

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get to knock on any doors this election season. I did in 2008, but at the time I had just moved to the area and had a lot fewer responsibilities. I’d go tomorrow, but taking off work from the federal government to get people to vote is…odd. I did try to call people in Ohio tonight, but ended up with a bunch of voice mail messages and two people angry at me.  Fred, good for you for getting out the vote.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    “subtlety”, by the way.

    And yay for hire-age of your daughter! I’m sure she will kick much butt as a politician one day. And yay for door-knockage :)

  • ohiolibrarian

    Yesterday, knocked on doors. Today, handed out sample ballots at Early Voting Center. Tomorrow, back to knocking on doors. GOTV.

    Not my idea of a good time, but … It. Must. Be. Done.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    They won’t let us Jerseyites vote for Manan Trivedi, but I’ve been enjoying his commercials. “Manan Trivedi – Less hair, more Medicare!” (Also, of course, “Manan Trivedi – Less hair, more respect for women!” – but that one doesn’t rhyme, alas.) It’s a wonderful and unnatural thing when political ads make you laugh.

  • Ursula L

    As of around 8 pm, Nate Silver just colored Florida light blue!!!!!!!

  • Dave

    I will admit, I have a particular personal preference for Florida going blue, given that my mom is voting there. I’ve been struggling for a couple of weeks with trying to find a way to tell her how hurt I am that she’s voting for the guy who thinks my marriage is some kind of legal error, rather than a legal expression of my shared humanity. And failing.

  • RickRS


    I’m in Florida.  For you, I’ll go and vote for Obama, my wife will go and vote for Obama, andmy son will vote for Obama.

    Altho, I’ll be honest and admit we are going to vote for a 2nd term for the President, anyway.  Just want you to know that hearts and minds are changing.

  • Dave

     (snuffles) Thank you. I realize it’s entirely irrational, but that actually really does help to read.

  • JustoneK

    I think you underestimate some of our introvertedness.  ness.

    But congrats to yer daughter!  Interning can sometimes be awesome.

  • Jurgan

    Have you considered asking if your local office needs help with data entry?  You can get ten people making calls, and one person who’s good with a computer can take a lot of the burden off them by entering it into a computer.

  • JustoneK

    That’s a good point, and I wouldn’t haveta shmooze.  I interact with people best when I have a specific task, heh.

    They’ll be doing the tallying for a long while?

  • Jessica_R

    I feel it’s important to post this, because it’s the little things that speak the biggest differences between the two men,

  • Jessica_R

    I feel it’s important to post this, because it’s the little things that speak the biggest differences between the two men,

  • Lori

    Aw, that was really great. Thank you for posting it.

  • Jurgan

    I’ve been working on GOTV through phones and dropping off literature in Charleston, SC.  Good exercise, although the non-Euclidean nature of some of the roads around here made it difficult.  I know Obama’s not taking the state (stupid winner-take-all system), but we have a lot of good downticket Democrats running, including my old chess coach.

    For those of you who are particularly prone to social anxiety, ask if your local office needs help with data entry.  You can get ten people making calls, and one person who’s good with a computer can take a lot of the burden off them by entering it into a computer.

  • aunursa

    I’ll see everyone on the next Left Behind thread.

    (If Obama wins, most of you will be thrilled and I will be very disappointed.  If Romney wins, I will be thrilled and many of you will be very disappointed.  In either scenario, there will be little point in my interaction with you on the post-election discussions.)

  • Nathaniel

     There’s been little point in our past interactions with you. You shall not be missed.

  • aunursa

    That’s sweet, Nathaniel.  I appreciate your contributions, too.

  • Dash1


    There’s been little point in our past interactions with you. You shall not be missed.

    Although I tend not to agree with aunursa about much, I still appreciate many of his comments here.

  • Beroli

     And yet, you had to comment on a non-Left Behind thread to reassert your political views and decry the pointlessness of doing so in the same breath.

    If you actually don’t comment between this and the next Left Behind thread, I’ll be astounded. Not as astounded as if Romney wins…but astounded.

  • aunursa

    Do you have a reading comprehension problem?  I decried the pointlessness of asserting my political views here immediately after the election.

    And I’m happy to report you won’t be astounded.  This morning I posted a comment on the (generally non-political) Chick-fil-A thread.

  • Morilore

    For what it’s worth, I enjoy your contributions to those threads.

  • AnonVoter

    Meanwhile, I’m voting for Stein/Honkala, so both Nathaniel and Aunursa can be disappointed in me!

    And for Rayburn Smith as well, because Tom Smith is a pro-life theocrat who is against health care and Bob Casey is another pro-life theocrat who sponsored SOPA. Rayburn Smith has, as far as I can tell, no known history as anti-abortion, anti-health care, or anti-Internet, and is running as a representative of the 99%, as he’s a retired postal worker and not a gazillionaire like virtually the entire Senate. He’s also got good ideas about helping to take money out of politics, pay down the national debt with campaign contributions, etc.

    Rest of my ticket is straight democratic, since the other democrats aren’t terrible.

  • Sue White

    No way!  You were in my neighborhood?  You should’ve stopped in at Walgreens. :-D

  • Keulan

    Too busy with work to go knocking on doors the past few days. I did just post on Facebook reminding people to vote tomorrow (I voted early, for Obama). Also, wow Pennsylvania is really blatantly gerrymandered. I’m glad that redistricting in my state (Iowa) is done by an independent body.

  • Amaryllis

     It’s a corruptagon. This is what gerrymandering looks like when its done
    by people who are both: A) incapable of subtly; and B) unconcerned with
    hiding what they’re doing.

    Hah. Pennsylvania redistricters are amateurs. Gerlach-mandering has nothing on Mary-mandering.

    Resident, Maryland 3rd Congressional District.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    What on God’s Green Earth IS that thing?

  • Fusina

     That thing is why in Maryland you can never be sure of just who your rep is, cause the people across the street might have a different on. OK, I am totally being sarcastic there, but really. Could they have made them more convoluted?*

    *That was a rhetorical question. And I know the answer is, “Of course.”

  • Hummingwolf

    That thing is why in Maryland you can never be sure of just who your rep is, cause the people across the street might have a different on. OK, I am totally being sarcastic there,

    The fact that you were being sarcastic doesn’t make what you said any less true.  In past elections, I’ve gone to my nearest grocery store here in Maryland and been greeted by a congressional candidate who really, really wanted me to vote for him, only to realize that I lived on the wrong side of that district line.  People in far distant towns may vote for the same candidate I did, but people a few blocks away have to vote for someone else.  If I had the energy, I could have some fun walking in & out of the congressional district just by walking in a nearly-straight line.

  • Amaryllis

    I told you, it’s a voting district.  It may look like a flayed pterodactyl, but it’s my very own voting district, comprising parts of four separate counties and a large chunk of an independent city.

    I understand that geography isn’t everything, but these districts are absolutely blatantly meant to  protect  the three (out of eight) members of Maryland’s delegation who all live within a few miles of each other, none of whom wishes to move or to compete with the others, or to compete with anyone really.

    Breathes there the incumbent with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, This is my own, my native land.

    The district lines have also been redrawn to improve the chances of replacing Maryland’s sole Republican representative with a clean slate of Democrats. I’m a lifelong Democrat myself, but that doesn’t mean I think that the people of the western counties aren’t entitled to choose their representative according to their own views. (WRONG though they may be.)

    The general opinion around here is that with each redistricting, the lines are more and more obviously drawn so that the politicians can choose their voters, rather than the other way around.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Well it sure doesn’t look like any sensible voting district, that’s for sure. Nonpartisan redistricting = the win.

  • cminus

    I believe that as of today Maryland has two Republican congressmen, not one: there’s Roscoe Bartlett in the Appalachian panhandle (whose seat is targeted by this particular gerrymander) and Andy Harris in the eastern shore (who should still cruise back into office).

  • Amaryllis

     Yes, you’re right, of course.

    I try not to think about Andy Harris.

  • P J Evans

    Texas-mandering is pretty impressive, too.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There really ought to be a law saying that whenever redistricting is done, the map where adding the perimeter of each district equals the lowest number is the map that wins, and to hell with safe seats, there shouldn’t be any such thing anyway.

  • Lori

     I think the best way to do redistricting is to have it done by a nonpartisan group that doesn’t involve any elected officials. California does it that way now and it seems to be helping.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     That thing looks like a sigil to summon Cthulhu.

  • depizan

    I have mixed feelings about the get the vote out efforts.  Mostly because I’ve gotten at least five phone calls a day for the past week urging me to go vote.  I’d say it makes me wish I’d early voted, but my friends who did are still getting the calls.  *sigh*

    Maybe I need a voice mail message that says “I will vote.  I do not need a ride to the polls.  Thank you.”

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Try also asking to be forwarded to the data entry people who can expedite entering you down as someone who doesn’t need more calls?

  • depizan

     Oh, that’s a good idea.  I don’t know if it would work, considering the calls are coming from all over the country, but I suppose if there’s a central database…

  • Lori

    I’m enormously proud of her.  

    Justifiably so. Good for her. And good for your for getting out and doing hard, but necessary GOTV work. My work schedule this year just didn’t allow for me to do it, so I’m doubly grateful for those who were both willing and able to.

  • Jessica_R

    And another unicorn chaser, I’m rather pleasantly surprised by what an ace in the hole Biden turned out to be as Vice Prez,

  • Trixie_Belden

    I canvassed with her one day in Phoenixville and was impressed by her ability to answer voters’ questions on the issues and where Trivedi stands on them.

    Fred, your daughter is awesome! 

    I wish I could be more persuasive.  I had a frustrating experience tonight.  After doing some calls into Ohio for OFA, I went to do some local calls for a great democratic candidate who’s running for Congress in my district.  He actually was elected in 2008, served a term, did some very useful stuff, and then lost in 2010 by 600-something votes to a tea party loon.  He decided to run again, but this time there is a Green party candidate in the race and the race is very , very tight.   I actually got a caller who told me she was still undecided between our guy and the Green.  She was “very excited” by the Green candidate, but didn’t want to “throw her vote away”.  I panicked a little and just started babbling. “Well” I said to her, “I really admire [our guy], he voted for the ACA, and I know it will help me…I know a lot of progressives were disappointed not to get single payer, but I think it was good to vote for the ACA because it was something that we could pass and it will help people….”.  after this bit of babbling I stopped because I realized I was talking into dead air.  She had hung up on me.  *sighs* 

    There was a volunteer sitting a little ways from me and at one point I was listening to her talking and she was saying something along the lines of  “Oh, I understand…are there any issues that you’re especially concerned about?  (this is the recommended approach) I’m a retired teacher, and I can tell you that when [our guy] came to speak to us one time he had some very good ideas about how to make our educational system better …etc….etc.”.  This went on for a bit and when her call ended she said triumphantly to us “I persuaded somebody!”

    I always have these great arguments in my head, and then when I’m confronted by someone who just blows me away with their cluelessness, I don’t handle it smoothly at all.

    Well, off to bed.  Plan to vote early-ish tomorrow. 

  • Riastlin Lovecraft

    Since I’m not sure where else to say to say it: Good luck to you Americans. We’re watching nervously from the sidelines over here, and I at least am a little anoyed that there’s not much I can do to help. Here’s to hoping for a fair election, and may the best candidate win. 

  • Paul Bagosy

    The 6th even looks a bit like the original Gerrymander, and I love how the 7th is actually non-contiguous.  Democracy!  Of course, it’s better than what they tried to do with the state reps.  I got lucky and got Gerrymandered into Allyson Schwartz’s district.  With the exception of Pat Toomey, it’s Democrats for me all the way up.  I’ll be out driving through East Norriton helping to re-elect my state rep Matt Bradford.

  • chris the cynic

    then you can maybe do it too.

    Good thing for the “maybe” in there.

    I tried to do my part in 2010 with the end result being:
    1) If there is a Hell, thus must be what it is like.
    2) I am never doing this again.

    For my mental health, which even with the help of a very good psychologist and an equally good psychiatrist is still fragile, I can’t.  Best of luck to those who can though, and I have the greatest respect for you.

  • Ursula L

    I’m on the fence about gerrymandering.

    There is something to be said about drawing district lines with an eye to common interests, so that the largest number of people are represented by the person of their choice.   Geostatistics are as arbitrary as any other measure.  

    Representation of the interests of voters will be better in two districts where the winner gets 80% of the vote rather than in two districts where the winner gets 50.01% of the vote.


    More personally, my preferences as a voter have been helped by gerrymandering, and diminished when it went away.  

    Throughout my years of voting, I have been quite happy to have Louise Slaughter as my representative.

    For the first decade I was voting, I was in the greater Rochester area, and she was my representative.

    In the second decade I was voting, my life changed, and I moved to the Buffalo area.  But there was a census at about that time, and in redistricting, she was given an odd shaped district that connected the cities and inner suburbs of Rochester and Buffalo by a thin strip along the shore of Lake Ontario.

    Now, at the beginning of my third decade of voting, there has been another census, and her district has been redrawn again.  And it now looks un-gerrymandered, as it is more-or-less the same as the greater Rochester area.  A nice, tidily shaped district.

    But it is still gerrymandered.

    Only this time, rather than drawing the lines to ensure that a significant proportion of the district would agree on the choice, it’s been redrawn to give the Republican county executive of Monroe county a chance to take the seat from a representative who has had the confidence of her district, however drawn, for years, and who has a strong record in congress.  

    And, damn it, for the first time in my life, I am voting but I don’t have the chance to vote for Louise.  


    In another example of what might be considered socially and politically beneficial gerrymandering, I remember, years ago, in a Canadian history class, learning that district lines there were drawn with an eye to limiting the geographical size of districts.  Because part of the nation is very densely populated, and parts are very thinly populated.  And the thinly populated areas tend to have more difficult travel conditions, as well.  So districts were drawn with an eye to keep them of a size where representatives and candidates could move about the district and stay in contact with people.   It might mean that some urban districts had a larger population that some of the rural/far-northern districts.  

    But it also recognized that the extreme differences in population density could make it easy to draw maps were all districts were of similar geographic size and population, but where the population was densely concentrated so that every MP would have to focus on southern, densely populated areas to win, and that they could completely ignore the needs of northern, less-densely populated areas.  Or you could draw a map with districts of equal population, but with the lines drawn to maximize the southern, more urban, population, with a scant handful of districts in northern areas, and those districts so physically huge that no representative or candidate could stay in close contact with all the communities they represented.  

    This considers the need of people to have representatives who are genuinely in need of their votes and support in order to win, and who also need to have their representatives stay in close contact with them, even when travel is difficult.  


    I also heard, this morning, that gerrymandering may actually help the problem of voting being disrupted by the chaos left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  

    Because if districts are drawn with a consideration to having much of the population share the same interests, then even if some of the total voting population can’t make it to the polls, they are more likely to have the people in their district who can make it to the polls also be people who share their interests.  


    Consider a hypothetical circle in a square.  A county with a fairly large town or city in the center, surrounded by large agricultural area.

    And this geographic region is entitled to two representatives.

    You could draw a line down the middle, with city and county split into two tidily shaped areas.  Each of which would have a big chunk of the population in the urban area, and were a candidate could ignore the rural areas without any risk.

    Or you could draw districts so that there is a large, square, district that is the rural/agricultural areas, with a geographically small circle in the middle, which is the urban area.  Both populations are still equal.  But now you have one person representing the urban interests, and another person representing the rural interests.  

  • vsm

    So y’all American comrades don’t find this practice of visiting and calling people to ask who they’re voting for annoying and invasive?

    Anyway, I think it’s high time someone with a Finnish last name got inside the halls of power, so I’m rooting for Stein and Honkala to pull a surprise victory.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Canadians do some of that too, during elections.

  • RickRS

    Highly annoying and invasive. 

    But its a part of the American process and I’ve even manned the phone banks and walked neighborhoods to ask for votes for my candidates in the past elections.  We have people (small number) get verbally abusive toward our intrusions, but we do it anyway.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I read a couple ‘how to get elected’ books several months ago, with the castle-in-the-air thought of running for the state legislature–turns out I am a couple months too young–and seems that the number one way to get votes is to get hold of a list of people whose ballot you’ll be on and who have a history of voting (doesn’t matter for whom so much as that they do), and then go bang on all their doors and say ‘Hi, I’m Jo Politician, I’m running for office in wherever, I hope you’ll vote for me.’ Maybe have a two-minute conversation about the voter’s values and why you’ll represent those better than your opponents or why you respectfully disagree with the voter’s conclusions, but better not to, as that’s two minutes you could be spending banging on the next door.

  • Lori


    So y’all American comrades don’t find this practice of visiting and
    calling people to ask who they’re voting for annoying and invasive?   

    They don’t really ask who you’re voting for. They usually have some idea who you’re thinking of voting for based on your party affiliation and whether or not you voted in the last election, but they don’t actually ask.

    What they do is give you the pitch for their candidate of choice. They may ask you what issues are of particular interest to you so that they can focus on talking about their candidate’s views on in those areas, but that’s not the same thing as asking who you’re voting for.

    Some people volunteer the information. As in, “I’m already planning to vote for your candidate, so no need to give me the pitch” or “I’m voting for the other person, so leave me alone.”

  • depizan

    Actually, it’s mostly been “do you have the right ID to vote?” and “do you need help getting to the polls?” Which are good and important questions, especially if the callers have some way of helping people who respond with no and yes as opposed to yes and no.

  • Cathy W

    Personally, this year, I found getting called and visited by actual human beings to be tolerable – mostly because it gave me the opportunity to tell them that I would get off my deathbed to vote for the candidate who they wanted to make sure had my support, so could they please stop wasting their own time and mine by calling and/or visiting? It didn’t stop, entirely, but it made me feel like I had a little power in the situation.

    The person I would call white hot flaming death from the skies down upon is the one who invented the autodialer / “robocall”. Yes, I hung up on them, and eventually stopped even answering the phone for numbers I didn’t recognize, but it felt a lot more intrusive than phone calls from humans.

  • Invisible Neutrino
  • Sue White

    Districts seem to get more fractal-shaped the closer you get to a major city.

  • Carstonio

    I just voted (Go Question 6!) and I’m past ready for the campaign to be over. There are probably many reasons why the GOP primary campaigning lasted so long, but one was probably the increasing divide in the party. At one point Romney and Huntsman looked like moderate choices in a field of demagogues, race-baiters, gay-baiters, theocrats and anti-intellectualists. Remember when a different candidate seemed to be in the lead for the nomination each month? If Huntsman had won the nomination, I wonder if he would have felt the same pressure or temptation to pander to the reactionaries in his party. Whoever wins today, my hope is that the extremism would push that faction further into irrelevancy, freeing up the Democrats to become more progressive. I want to see that party advocate stronger regulation of Wall Street, more progressive taxation, better environmental protections and single-payer health care.

  • Jesse

    I thought we weren’t going to be using this absurd distric map this year, so I showed up all ready to vote against Joe Pitts in district 17, and found out I’m now part of that district 7 monstrosity. Great.

  • Amaryllis

    So. I’m just back from my polling place, and I’m happy* to report that The Vote Has Been Gotten Out.

    I’ve never seen lines like that, not even for the 2008 election. Of course, the two dozen ballot questions to be voted on made for a longer than usual time at the machines, but there were still a lot of people there.

    * Happy, for a certain qualified version of happiness. I may live in one of the bluest of the blue states, in a gerrymandered Democratic district, but my little pocket of it tends to tilt conservative Republican. I have a sinking feeling that a lot of my neighbors turned out to vote against everything I was voting for.

    And then I got home to a ringing phone– political robocall– and a voicemail message– political robocall. It may be all part of the process, but ENOUGH ALREADY.

    It’s gonna be a long day.

  • Winter

    Just got back from casting my write-in vote for Charles Darwin over Paul Broun. Some days I think Georgia should start listing political nuts as an export along with peanuts.

    The district doesn’t look too gerrymandered, aside from splitting up my more-liberal-than-the-rest-of-the-state hometown. On the other hand, the state rep map for the area is a mess and the legislature really screwed over the local government’s districting.

  • Hummingwolf

    Being unemployed gives me one advantage at election time:  I can choose when I get out to vote.  A little after 2 p.m. today, my polling place had no line worth the name–there were two more voters there than there were voting machines.  I voted, ate lunch at a local café, did some grocery shopping, came home, and my landlord’s wife was still surprised that I’d gotten home so soon after leaving.  This morning’s lines were apparently pretty brutal.

  • frazer

    I was a poll watcher up near Ambler, PA, and the turnout there surpassed that in ’08–over 80% of the precinct voted.  I was impressed.  
    I’ve heard the argument that gerrymandering (and I was moved from PA’s 6th district to the 7th) makes it harder for moderates to get elected and compromises to be made, as politicians are increasingly in safe districts and don’t have to appeal to swing voters.