Yes We Van

Sarah McGrath

More than 30 volunteers steer voters to the polls

Without any outside support, the “Minivan Obama Mamas” are ready, from now until the very end of Election Day, to cart the students and residents of Kent to the polls.

Leaving four times a day from the bus stop in front of the Student Center, the Minivan Obama Mamas is a group of local volunteers who think it is important that potential voters exercise their right to vote and, as the name indicates, provide a service for Barack Obama supporters.

“You can’t complain if you don’t vote,” said Kara Skora, who helped create Minivan Obama Mamas.

Skora, a Hiram College professor and Kent resident, created the Minivan Obama Mamas during the 2004 presidential election. Known then just as the Minivan Mamas, Skora said the group had 25 drivers, driving hundreds of students to their election polling centers from the time the polls opened to the time they closed on Election Day.

Today, the group is made up of more than 30 volunteers who have been making four trips every weekday since Oct. 20 to the Portage County Board of Elections in Ravenna. Volunteers not only provide their time, but their gas as well – none are reimbursed for the gas money they spend.

“These volunteers are really just happy to help,” Skora said. “They are anxious to do something.”

Because Ohio now allows early voting, Skora said they are trying to get as many voters as they can to vote early.

Averaging about 15 students a day, the vans leave from the Student Center bus stop at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Skora said she expects that number to increase greatly as more people learn about the program and as the election draws nearer.

“I think it is a good idea to get people to go,” said freshman Kendra Sherbourne, who spontaneously took advantage of the ride yesterday morning to go vote early. “I know I would not have had the time to go vote on Election Day.”

Minivan Obama Mamas also helps residents of Kent. Skora said Kent residents who are having trouble getting to the polls should contact the Obama campaign headquarters in downtown Kent and a driver from the Minivan Obama Mamas will take them to their polling place.

Those who want to take advantage of the free ride to the Board of Elections just need to show up at one of the designated times in front of the bus stop and a driver will be waiting. Rides will be offered every weekday until Tuesday. Skora said they would also be making a trip at 10:30 Saturday morning.

On Election Day, the group will take students to and from the polling places every half hour starting at 6 a.m. Skora said the Minivan Obama Mamas will also pick up students from the bus stop in front of the Rosie’s Diner in Tri-Towers to take students to their correct polling center.

“We just have to make sure everybody votes,” Skora said.

Contact public affairs reporter Sarah McGrath at [email protected].