Feet on the Street

An Obama volunteer on why she switched from Clinton, and why it matters


The Clinton and Obama camps agree: North Carolina is a crucial battleground. Armies of volunteers have taken to the streets, including Cynthia Baker Perkins. She began registering voters during Bill Clinton's first campaign in 1992. An Obama volunteer this time around, the thirty-four-year-old Indian Trail resident has been helping out in Charlotte for the past six months. One rainy Saturday afternoon in early April, she set up a table at the main entrance to the buzzing Salon Central on Freedom Drive. Perkins managed to sign up about twenty new voters in five hours—just about average, she says, despite the weather.

Why'd you pick this place?
Because of the number of African Americans that visit, especially on a weekend. I just don't feel that a lot of them are being targeted, and this is where many of those people who are afraid or don't know what's going on are located.

There is a lot of fear. It's like they're scared that something's going to come out and get them because they registered to vote. It's like they're scared of government and they want to run. And I tell them running away from the problem is not going to help. And most people, they go ahead and they fill out the form.

Have you noticed anything different in this election?
I've never seen this type of push to get people out there and voting.

What about with potential voters?
A lot of people are very open to it. They realize they need to stop being part of the problem and actually participate.

Was it like that in the past?
Um … no.

Do you have any secret weapons?
Bottled water and candy. If I don't have something to draw them over to the table, then they're not going to come. They're just going to walk by real fast.

Is this the extent of your political involvement?
I'm trying to get my business started so I can use that as a platform. Maybe a district seat, or county commissioner. I want to be in a position where I can implement some change and talk about some of the troubles I see. Cut through all that red tape and actually get some things rolling.