Several hundred supporters of Barack Obama gathered in front of the State Street entrance to the Capitol building on Tuesday afternoon for a get-out-the-vote-early rally led by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. This was the centerpiece event of a citywide effort by the Obama campaign to encourage voters to register and cast ballots early.
Speaking for an audience thick with University of Wisconsin students, the former Democratic presidential candidate was joined by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Dane County Exec. Kathleen Falk, and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Following a brief performance by local reggae stalwarts Natty Nation, each elected official took their place at the podium. Along with expressing their support for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, they urged those present to vote early both to alleviate long lines and longer waits and to provide more warm bodies for GOTV efforts come Election Day on November 3.
Organizers were busy at the rally itself, with gatekeepers at the bottom of the steps up to the Capitol pushy about insisting that attendees "sign-in" and share their contact information with the campaign. Also present were a couple dozen supporters of John McCain and Sarah Palin, chanting slogans like "Country First" and hoisting signs in support of the Republican candidates.
Following the speeches, Kerry led a good portion of the crowd on a short march around the Capitol and down Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to the City-County Building for a round of registrations and votes. Typically the Madison City Clerk's office closes at 4:30 p.m., but it is remaining open until 7 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays until the end of October.