DETROIT — Despite a slew of statewide polls showing a double-digit lead for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, the University’s chapter of College Democrats yesterday engaged in last-ditch efforts to turn out voters on campus and in Detroit.
About 20 group members made three last-ditch efforts — at 10 a.m., noon and 4 p.m. — to turn out campus voters yesterday before taking a charter bus to the Motor City.
After getting there, though, volunteers found that most Detroit residents had already voted. From churches and gas stations to outdoor basketball courts, it seemed everyone the College Democrats encountered had already cast a ballot for the Illinois senator.
Angela Greene, a Detroit resident and Obama volunteer, said the lines at her inner-city precinct were light last night, but only because most people had already voted earlier in the day. Working at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Greene appeared exhausted, leaning against a fence and rubbing her eyes often.
“People were lined up for hours in the morning,” said Greene, who’d been working 10 hours and still had two more to go. “I got here at 8 this morning and I feel like a lot of the voters beat me here.”
Veronique Deane, who worked as poll monitor on the city’s east side, said she also thought most of Detroit’s voting took place early in the day.
“I think that everyone who wants to vote has,” she said around 6 p.m. at the Bewick and Canfield street precinct. “It was a lot of people for this neighborhood.”
Canvassing from door to door Monday evening, LSA junior Dana Cronyn, a member of the College Democrats’ board, stopped a man walking down the street to see whether he’d voted.
“I already voted, baby!” the smiling man said, proudly displaying the “I Voted” sticker upon his chest.
LSA sophomore Ben Bernstein, another College Dems member, got nearly the same reaction when he approached a group of 10 men playing a game of street basketball.
“Have you guys voted yet today?” he asked.
“We’re on game point, man!” one of the men angrily shouted. But many of the other players said they had voted for Obama. One expressed shock that people were still campaigning on Obama’s behalf.
“Obama’s got this, man,” he said to Bernstein. “It’s not even about to be close.”
Bernstein responded by saying he just wanted to make sure that was the case.
It was. The TV networks called the state of Michigan for Obama almost immediately after polls closed at 8 p.m., indicating that the Illinois senator had won by a relatively wide margin. With 90 percent of precincts reporting as of 2 a.m. last night, Obama held a commanding 14-point edge — 56 percent to 42 percent — over Republican nominee John McCain of Arizona.
Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, chair of the University’s College Democrats chapter, said Monday that the group was no longer interested in “winning the game,” but “trying to run up the score” instead. Monday night’s foray into Detroit may have indicated that.
The city, which is 85 percent black and heavily Democratic, was already expected to draw record numbers of voters to the polls. In particular, analysts projected that Obama, the first black nominee of a major party, would bring black voters to the polls like never before. Nationwide exit polls showed that about nine of every 10 black voters cast a vote for the Illinois senator.
According to the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, Obama won about 70 percent of the county’s votes, racking up a margin of about 350,000 votes — 552,400 to 206,083 — over McCain.
LSA junior Sam Marvin, who coordinated the College Dems’ canvassing efforts from an Obama campaign office, said the last-minute push in Detroit was a result of the group’s abundance of helpers.
“The decision to get the bus was made yesterday in anticipation of massive volunteer turnout,” said Marvin, who described the College Dems as “the Michigan SWAT team.”
Marvin said volunteers also stayed in Ann Arbor to continue canvassing in the dorms. Others stayed behind to encourage prospective voters who were in line by the state’s 8 p.m. cutoff to stay in line.
— Daily Staff Reporter Julie Rowe contributed to this report.