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Lisa Loving of The Skanner News
Published: 04 September 2012

Colleen Davis, at left, and Roseta Akins are co-managers of the Northeast Killingsworth Voter Registration Depot. They are encouraging people to drop in at their office at 1615 NE Killingsworth St., and bring the kids.

Where were you on the night of Nov. 4, 2008?

Hundreds of Portlanders thronged outside the Obama for President office on Northeast Killingsworth Street, dancing, shooting off fireworks and driving in circles around the building – where the longest high-five line in Portland history slapped the palms of auto passengers circling the block to celebrate the election of the nation's first Black president.

Colleen Davis and Roseta Akin – who on Tuesday opened the Democrats' Northeast neighborhood Voter Registration Depot – want to bring that sense of excitement back to their storefront office, right across the street from the old headquarters.

The Voter Registration Depot, at 1615 NE Killingsworth (inside the old One Stop Records shop) will be open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 8 p.m.

There you will find pins, bumper stickers and lawn signs for sale; voter registration information; and volunteer training.

On Sept. 9 the Depot hosts a grand opening celebration from 3 to 6 p.m., with refreshments and sign up sheets. Oregon Rep. Lew Frederick will kick off his new office there as well.

After Oct. 16, the entire operation shifts from a voter registration hub to a get-out-the-vote operation where you will be able to find "slate cards" to help you decide which candidates and ballot measures to vote for.

"People have been coming in, getting to know our office and all the things we're planning," says Akin.

"For the next six weeks we would like to register 75-100 people a day, until Oct. 16, which is the deadline," Davis said.

Akin and Davis met at the Obama headquarters in 2008, and they share many happy memories of the experience – as well as strategies on how to register the maximum number of people to vote in Northeast Portland.

"In '08, we facilitated on the weekdays 200 to 300 volunteers a day, and on the weekends 400-500 volunteers a day," Davis says.

"So people were taking clipboards and going out and volunteer 'regging' from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, seven days a week, all over the city.

"And what I see happening now is voter 'reg' during events – but that's not where you're going to get the people that need to be approached," Davis says.

"And of course that's what excites me – when the young people want to get registered to vote," she said. "It just reinforces that we need to get this done."

Akin and Davis say that the Obama campaign has changed its strategy away from one city office, and towards decentralized neighborhood hubs.

That decision has made it tougher to build the volunteer momentum of the '08 campaign.

This year the Obama headquarters is across town at 1125 SE Madison Ave.,

Suite 112; but, David and Akin say, Northeast Killingsworth Street is a key location as well.

"I think the African Americans are being disenfranchised," Davis says. "We have the African Americans over here, the Latinos over there, and the gay and lesbian community over there.

"In '08 we all worked together -- I'm part of an Obama breakfast group that has met every week since he was elected. We need to recreate that."

"The people felt empowered," Akin says. "And we want to empower this community."

For those who spent time on the 1600 block of Northeast Killingsworth Street on the night of Nov. 4, 2008, the memory is indelible.

"By any chance did you come down to the office in 08?" Akins says.

"It reminded me of the World War II pictures.

"I danced in the streets, I kissed strangers, and the police that were there supposedly supervising? All they wanted to know was what food that was coming out," Akins said. "'Have we had any lasagna?' 'I haven't had any lasagna.'"

"I had a whole bunch of people down at the convention center and I heard fireworks, and I started driving down the street here and I thought: It looks like it's coming from the office," Davis said.

"I got here and there were 14 police cars and hundreds of people and I rushed up to the first police officer and said, 'Oh no are they breaking into the office?'

"And he said, 'Calm down, we're just having a party.'"

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