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Brooklyn Gives It Up For Obama

Fort Greene stirred with excitement on Election Day. With its large African-American community and educated, artsy residents, it was the perfect storm of Obama support.

Two poll workers getting coffee at a local cafe said people were cheering as they left the voting booths.

Francine Tompkins has lived in Fort Greene for 38 years. She said she has never seen lines as long as when she went to vote today. When she got out of the booth, she clapped.

Voting Smooth, But Not Perfect

There were, of course, the inevitable hitches. Fort Greene resident Margerie Schwartz, 36, said she waited on line for 45 minutes, only to have her voting machine break down. Instead of getting on the back of another line, she chose to fill out a paper ballot, which was deposited into a cardboard box she described as a “masking tape abomination.”

Still, for many Fort Greene residents, the mood was uplifting. Unlike in recent elections, when they felt they were voting against a particular candidate, today, they said they were affirmatively voting for one.

What’s behind the turnaround? Voters said an inspiring Democratic nominee poised to make history helped energize them at the polls. They cited the concerns raised by the economic crisis, the use of new organizing techniques through the Internet, and the willingness of Obama’s campaign to try new techniques as reasons they voted for Obama.

Downloading Lists

Political activists have been able to download voter lists from Obama’s Web site, for instance, and make calls from the privacy of their own home— a tactic rarely utilized by other campaigns. They have gathered in places like the grand Masonic Temple on the corner of Lafayette Street and Claremont Street working their cell phones from rows of long wooden tables that fill the floor under the vaulted ceilings.

“Take some sheets; get to it,” said John Mahoney, a 25-year old volunteer who is donating his time to train people working the phone banks. “Anything people we are talking to can do to help we’d greatly appreciate,” he said to a group of callers.

The night before, Jonathan Judge said he made about 40 calls. Today, Judge, 37, used his cell phone to call voters in Wisconsin. After doing nothing but complaining during the last two elections, he said he decided this year to do more than just vote.

“If Obama wins, it will re-energize the country in a way Kennedy did,” Judge said.

At an Italian restaurant in Fort Greene, a group of locals sat at the bar and talked about the election. Marilyn Miller took a break from working at the polls to get some food and a glass of wine. She said she doesn’t know if the Obama campaign will start a new political movement, but she said she noticed more young people voting than ever.

“People want change,” said Miller, “People want a new direction.”