Rashid Helps Push Voter Turnout

Abdelnasser Rashid '11

While his classmates were busy buying books and moving furniture to prepare for the fall semester, Abdelnasser Rashid ’11 was anxiously awaiting a call from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign. A week into school, after he had decided on most of his courses, it came—the campaign was offering him a position as a field organizer.

Soon after, Rashid told his roommates that he had some news that needed to be discussed. He had not mentioned the potential job to them.

“The way he told us was kind of dramatic,” said his roommate Ryan H. Berry ’11. “We thought something horrible had happened—but then he told us that he was going to take the semester off to campaign for Obama.”

Rashid, who also volunteered with Harvard Students for Obama last year, quickly decided to leave for the fall semester and travel to Dearborn, Mich. to help the Obama campaign.

As part of his job as a field organizer, Rashid is responsible for coordinating phonebanks and canvasses. Rashid described his role as organizing Obama supporters and making sure that they are registered and ready to vote.

“My job is to get Barack elected by mobilizing this particular community, making sure they vote in large numbers,” Rashid said. “And what that also does is give this community a voice and political clout.”

Rashid, who sometimes works from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., admits that sometimes the long days can be daunting.

“The hardest part is working such long hours and knowing that there is no guarantee that your day is going to go well,” he said. “There is no guarantee that the volunteers will show up each day.”

But Rashid says that turnout has been fairly consistent because the volunteers realize that they are the core of the campaign.

“One thing that is inspiring is seeing people put their lives completely on hold to volunteer for the Obama campaign,” Rashid said. “They are doing this completely on their own time. They choose to volunteer with Obama because they believe so strongly in his message. It reminds me of why I’m here.”

Berry, a Dearborn native, said that his hometown has a large support base for Obama.

“The problem in Dearborn, which is what Abdelnasser is struggling with, is voter turnout and voter registration,” he said.

Although Rashid says he misses his family, friends, and even 300-page reading assignments, he says he wouldn’t have missed this opportunity on the campaign trail.

“I’m glad that I made the decision to take off a semester of school,” said Rashid, who will return to his home in Chicago after Election Day. “I can come back to school anytime, but this is the only time I can help Barack get elected.”

—Staff writer Arianna Markel can be reached at amarkel@fas.harvard.edu.