Where were student volunteers the last four years?

I spent the Friday before the election walking along a street I’d never heard of in a part of Miami I’d never been to, shielded from the sun only by my idealism. I was a canvasser, going door-to-door encouraging people to vote Democratic.

Being my first day, I was nervous. I knocked on my second door and readied myself to convey my vast knowledge of how to vote.

A 60-something woman came to the door. She peered at me through her thick glasses as I delivered my spiel. When I was finished, she looked at me, and asked, “Where have you been for the past four years?”

My ego was promptly deflated.

She continued on about how she had fought for the vote when she was in college. How she knew her duty to vote. How she was tired of people only coming around every four years when somebody needed to be reelected.

This episode hung in my mind for the rest of the weekend. Now, I wonder if she will be right again, if the end of this election also means the end of our concerns until 2008.

Because of what happened in 2000, there has been an outpouring of activism on both sides to encourage voter turnout of all ages. I applaud this, and deeply admire anyone who spent any amount of time working with registration drives and efforts to remind people to vote. From the people tabling in the Breezeway to the people camped out in front of polling locations to offer help if needed, it was amazing to see student convincing student, citizen talking to citizen about where America should be going.

And deep down, I hope it doesn’t stop.

I know I can’t wish for the same amount of money and time spent as we’ve had the luxury of enjoying (or being annoyed by) for the past few months. But I think that with the data collected and the infrastructure laid after this election, we can keep this effort going. After all, elections don’t just happen every four years.

If you missed out on 2004, register today. Voter registration doesn’t stop simply because the presidential election is over. And if you’re wondering what to do with your newly acquired voting rights, why not try voting in some more local elections or at the very least when more senate seats come up for grabs in two years.

Also, try Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org) one of those handy non-profits whose focus is researching and compiling information on elections and candidates, from federal to most state elections.

We’ve made incredible progress, but I think the real work has just begun. Now is the time to focus on fixing the heartaches of 2004. America doesn’t stop being a democracy because the president has been elected.

So maybe I’ll see you at the polls before 2008.

Elaine Ayo can be contacted at e.ayo@umiami.edu.