President Bush is due in Iowa today and democratic challenger John Kerry will be in Iowa tomorrow, but their appearances will do nothing to change the votes of some Iowans. Some Iowans have already cast their votes because of an to an aggressive early voting drive by the Iowa Democratic Party. One night last week, about a dozen volunteers were manning the phones at the party’s Polk County headquarters in downtown Des Moines, checking with folks who’d received an absentee ballot in the mail. Twenty-eight-year-old Jason Leete (leet) is one of the party’s volunteer “ballot chasers.” Armed with a clipboard, a map and the addresses of absentee voters, he took off in his own car to pick up ballots. Leete rang the doorbell of the home of “Bettty,” a woman who’d told democratic party volunteers she wanted her ballot picked up. Betty’s husband answered the door a few moments later. “We’re in our middle 80s now. We’re not able to get out very often, and we thought that maybe this year we’d (vote) by absentee ballot,” the man told Leete. Leete is a teacher’s assistant in the Des Moines Public Schools and is going to college at night to get his teaching degree. Leete says he was frustrated by the outcome of the 2000 election, so despite his class schedule, he volunteers twice a week to pick up absentee ballots. Meanwhile, on the nothern side of Polk County in a newly-furnished office suite in Johnston, the Iowa Republican Party had phone banks up and running last week, with volunteers taking surveys. Fourteen-year-old Wesley DeSaulneirs (duh-SAWN’-yay) of Mingo has volunteered to make calls for the President’s campaign — even though he’s not yet old enough to vote. “I like Bush and it will have quite a bit of effect on my future what he does in the next four years, or what Kerry does for the next four years, so I’m trying to get people out to vote for Bush,” Wesley said. His 16-year-old sister, Erin and his 17-year-old brother, Joseph, are also making calls. Interest in politics is often passed from one generation to another, but Joseph says his parents aren’t politically active. Joseph says he and his sister went to a county convention in 2000, and wound up going to the state convention, too, because they have strong views and enjoy politics. On Tuesday night of last week, the siblings weren’t having much success convicing anyone to answer the Republican Party’s survey. Erin was slowed down by a couple of wrong numbers, but found most of those who did answer the survey to be friendly. “I’ve had some be rude, some be nice,” she says. “I wanted to volunteer for the campaign. I’m really good at talking — I like to talk a lot — and so a phone bank is a really good thing to do…I want to support the president.” The Desaulniers volunteer once a week for the President’s re-election blitz and plan to continue to do so until Election Day.
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