Interview with Slim Coleman

Tell me a little bit about that. I mean you had very unusual voter registration programs. Tell me.


Well, we had to fight to get, ah, registrars from the Board of Elections, ah, to come out, ah, so we had to file a lawsuit, ah, that said that Board of Elections could and would, ah, send deputy registrars. They let us do a little pilot program in the middle of the negotiations about the lawsuit, ah, for ten days, ah, they said, "You can, we will send you out registrars but you have to have a van, ah, that they can sit in, in front of the public aid office. We won't let you go inside you have to have a van outside." I think, they, there were about 38 public aid and unemployment offices and I, I, I really believed that they don't, ah, didn't think we could come up with a van to put outside each one. Ah, and we got on the radio and asked people to please, ah, donate their van for the day each day and we ran it five days a week. Ah, and we'd go around with leaflets and, ah, inside the public aid office and get people to register. There, through the whole program, which was really just about 30 days long, we registered 43,000 people at those, at public aid and unemployment sites, those 38 sites around the city, ah, that, I think showed people that it could be done, that large numbers of people really were unregistered in the city of Chicago and that they would register. When you were at the public aid office or an unemployment office, ah, we said, "Well, we, we want you to register to vote. We want to get rid of Byrne, Thompson and Reagan. We had three evil people here and we got to get rid of them. If you don't think it's a problem, look at your welfare check." Somebody would come out, ah, having just been cut off from public aid by their case worker for some ridiculous, ah, situation, and, ah, they'd be mad and they'd say, "All right, I'm a registered voter. I'm going to get rid of them." We really didn't have to argue very much. People would come out angry and say, "Give me that thing. I'm going to register to vote." And it, it, you know, it expanded to other special sites where we did voter registration in, ah, in about a two and a half month, two month period really. We registered, ah, 97,000 people to vote, all told, before the regular inner precinct voter registration, where, with the help of, ah, Ed Gardner from Soft Sheen and, ah, some commercials that he put on the radio, we registered 150,000 so that, ah, the total was 250,000, ah, that were registered really within a two and a half month period.