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Obama for America Offers Volunteers "Trip Planner," A Craigslist for the Campaign

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, September 10 2012

With Election Day less than two months away, both Republicans and Democrats are more focused than ever on having their volunteers hit the road in battleground states to knock on doors, register voters, and to talk to them about why they should vote for their presidential candidate.

Both sides are keen to show that their campaigns have momentum by publicizing the numbers.

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign let the world know on Twitter yesterday that supporters held almost 8,000 grassroots events this weekend. Staff also highlighted their "Weekend of Action," on the campaigns' social media accounts and on the campaign blog. On Twitter, GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney's staff recently boasted that the Republican's volunteers have contacted more than 20 million voters this campaign cycle.

Factoring in transportation costs and accommodations, though, volunteering in states away from home base can be expensive. So the Obama campaign has created an internal "Craigslist" for its volunteers. Simply called Trip Planner, it's a bulletin board that enables volunteers to both post available rides and accommodations, as well as find them.

A search for a Friday afternoon ride from San Francisco to Reno, a city in the battleground state of Nevada, yielded a potential ride from the town of Fairfax in Marin County. The listing, which didn't give the name of the driver, simply provided the planned departure times at each end of the trip, told me that the car is a sedan, the driver a woman, and that no children, pets or smoking would be allowed.

The driver also disclosed that there wouldn't be any air-conditioning or heat during the trip.

"Sorry, I have a sound sensitivity," they wrote in the "special instructions" section of the form.

As a potential applicant for a spot in the car, I had to provide my name, address, phone number, e-mail and reason I'm taking the trip. I also had to sign a waiver that said resolved the Obama campaign of any responsibilities should anything untoward happen during the trip. The legal disclaimer tells me that the campaign does not conduct any screening, so effectively if the driver is an ax murderer, it's a risk that I must understand that I am taking.

Volunteers appear to be actively using the tool. A previous search for rides just this past weekend for trips to Nevada yielded several offers for rides from Berkeley. And a search for accommodations in Reno this upcoming week-end turned up 18 listings for rooms in and around the city.

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