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Democrats hammer in early voting message

JOHN HARTEVELT IN THE US
Last updated 05:00 05/11/2012
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It's the British who are supposed to have a fetish for queues, not the Yanks.

But slow-moving conga lines have been emerging in growing numbers all across the United States in the last couple of days.

In St Petersburg, Florida, they started queuing to see former president Bill Clinton speak seven hours before he took the stage.

In the Florida sunshine, eager and mostly young Obama supporters worked the snaking line waiting to enter the "Coliseum" where Mr Clinton was starring. The volunteers offered water cups but mostly, they wanted everyone to sign up to support the Obama campaign. Would you volunteer for a three-hour shift of door knocking? Will you man the phone banks for a few hours?

A handful of anti-Obama agitators did not miss the chance to wind up a captive crowd. A man carrying a sign that read "Romney=Jobs; Obama=Food stamps" roamed slowly up and down the queue goading for a reaction. He frequently got, and returned, abuse.

Inside, the call to arms for Mr Obama got even more aggressive.

"Get out your phones!" a volunteer ordered down a crackling microphone.

"Text ‘g, i, v, e' to 62262 and make a $10 donation to the campaign. Only $10. The cost of a coffee from Starbucks."

Speaker after speaker firmly pressed the audience to volunteer, to vote early and to get others to the polls.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor had those who had not voted early raise their hands so that she could tell them off.

Local mayor and staunch Democrat Bob Buckhorn lifted a lesson from the Bible to encourage supporters to keep on working for Mr Obama.

"When you're tired of walking, you need to say ‘send me'. And when you're tired of making phone calls, you need to put your hand up and say, ‘send me'!"

Mr Clinton, on his fourth and final stop for that day, spoke with more measure.

His low, casual voice sounded at first like it might give up within moments. But he wandered his way through more than 40 minutes of detailed discussion about debt, healthcare and education.

Mr Clinton gets a free pass from the campaign on having to stick to the talking points.

But every one else has been hammering the early vote message. It must have worked, to some extent at least, because queues were reported in key states such as Florida, Ohio and North Carolina at the weekend.

Of course, many more polling stations will open on Wednesday, but the fear of long queues is a big part of the push for early voting.

Voters in several states are presented with ludicrously long voting papers - in Florida there are several pages of heavy text to consider in a long series of legislative proposed amendments. This will slow the voting process and for those unable to make it to the polls till late on voting day, the chances of missing the 7pm (local time) cut off increase.

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A low turnout will very likely hurt the Democrats. If it hurts them enough to narrow the race right down to the wire, expect lawyers to become involved.

* John Hartevelt is travelling on a US Government-funded programme.

- Stuff

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