Monday was the last day to register to vote in Indiana, and I spent the day registering voters in the parking lot of a Marathon station across the street from our “headquarters” (a canopy tent, a card table, and some chairs) at Double 8 Foods, in the “Hood.” Obama volunteers have registered several thousand voters on this one corner since the May primary—and we registered more than three hundred on Monday. They arrived in battered pick-ups, jacked-up rides, and Lincoln Town Cars, on foot and on bicycles, wheeling babies in strollers. A policeman in a squad car stopped to get a form for his daughter, promising to return it, signed, before the end of the day. They came from the moment the first volunteer arrived around 7 a.m., and kept coming till the last volunteers had to leave at 6:15 to get last bunch of forms in the mail in time for a 7 p.m. postmark.
At one point two young guys wheeled into the parking lot in a big SUV, hip-hop blaring on the stereo, and stopped right in front of me.
Driver: “Yo, baby. This where you register?”
Me: It is, and you can do it right here in your car.
I handed him my clipboard, and he filled out the form.
Another young man arrived on foot, clutching the registration form he’d already filled out. “Would you look at this?” he asked. “I just got out of prison and I want to be sure I can vote.”
I stood near the door of the gas station or ranged around the parking lot, headed for the bus stop if I saw someone waiting there.
“Registered?” I’d ask.
Most replied with a big grin and a thumbs-up.
Toward the end of the day, I ventured across 29th Street, where a bunch of men were gathered on a front porch, others leaning on the fence or sitting on crates and lawn chairs on the sidewalk.
Me: “Does anyone here need to register to vote?”
At first, silence. Then, one man turned to another.
Man #1: You register?
Man #2: Shrug.
Man #1: You need to register.
I offered the clipboard, he filled out the form. So did two others.
I asked if anyone would like information about early voting. “No, ma’am,” said Man #1. “I want to be there on the day and see it.” (A response I heard again and again.)
“Hey, thanks for coming over,” he called out as I walked back to the station.
And I thought, as I did countless times that day—
So this is what hope looks like.