It’s well past 1 a.m. in West Virginia, and I should be in bed getting sleep for another day of petitioning that begins in but just a few short hours. However, the energy of the petition drive (or maybe just the Starbucks coffee we made in the room’s nearly microscopic coffee machine) keeps my eyes open and my fingers glued to the keyboard. A Google alert just notified me of an expected article in the state’s second largest paper, which briefly highlights the purpose of the ballot access drive in hopes of making an anxious community more comfortable with signing our petitions.
This nervousness, which has been pervasive throughout the drive, has been one of many factors that make West Virginia an especially difficult ballot access state in the 2008 election. Not only does the history of the state and the character of the population makes them more resistant to signing a petition for more choice (many fear a signature equates actual support of the candidate on the petition), the nature of this election exacerbates the problem.
As I last discussed, the history of West Virginia in manufacturing, mining, unions and federations, combined with a distinct Southern culture of guns, God and family make for an interesting mix. Heavily Democratic, to the point where the Republicans in the state are both extremely bitter about their minority status and incredibly on edge, the modus operandi of most voters is to simply protect the holy grail of this election: Barack Obama.
Discussing electoral theory or political strategy in the brief seconds one has to convince a person to sign their name on an unknown position is utterly impossible, making it difficult to persuade voters that more choice is actually a good thing. After suffering through eight miserable years under the Bush administration, which many blame for the job drain (or being "bushwacked," as one man called it), the last thing these voters wish to do is introduce more elements into the election that could possibly spoil Obama’s chances.
But even faced with these obstacles, the ballot access drive led by the Barr campaign’s Midwest Coordinator Mike Ferguson and Deputy Campaign Manager Shane Cory has rolled on with the help of volunteers from in the state and across the nation.
Coming from Arizona all the way to South Carolina, volunteers (some of whom are not even members of the party) have come out to assist the petitioning efforts in West Virginia. The volunteers have been the backbone of the ballot access drive, working from morning till night collecting signatures, which save the campaign both time and money.
Recognizing the hard work of volunteers in the drive, Bob Barr himself made personal calls to each volunteer thanking him for his dedication and effort. Though just a phone call, this personal touch by the candidate both surprised and emboldened the volunteers—many of who had never met Bob before.
As the drive approaches the Aug. 1 deadline, Nader and Constitution Party petitioners have also returned to the state in a last ditch effort ensure they also meet the 15,116-signature requirement for ballot access in the state.
A press conference for the Barr ballot access drive is being planned for Friday, and will discuss the final turn-in for signatures as well as other topics related to the ballot access drive and the campaign. Overall, the media covering the drive has been overwhelming positive, helping to spread the message of choice and liberty to West Virginia voters.
Ferguson has had even one feature just on himself, after a reporter from a local station found that his kids traveled with him on the campaign trail.
Tomorrow we will be doing another turn-in for signatures, hoping to add to our current totals. We are also reviewing sheets and checking counties to ensure we do not face the same type of problems the Nader team saw with their petitions last week.