A View From Newark, N.J., On Election Day

Mayor Cory Booker had everything he needed to win: money, ads, an Internet campaign and celebrity endorsements. But what does a candidate do when he has none of these? He yells at people. Out of speakers. From the top of a truck. NPR's Robert Smith was also in Newark, N.J, on election day, what some consider to be the loudest day of the year.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Cory Booker had everything he needed to win: money, advertising and celebrity endorsements. But what does a candidate do when he has none of those? He yells at people out of speakers from the top of a truck.

NPR's Robert Smith was also in Newark, New Jersey on election day, what some consider to be the loudest day of the year.

ROBERT SMITH: In Newark, only the hard of hearing could possibly forget to vote.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) Vote for Mayor Minor, he can handle your problems, major or minor...

SMITH: A political tradition here: plaster the car with posters, strap on your home stereo and hit the neighborhoods.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) ...you know hes the choice. Voice of the people, so come on out and vote for the choice of the people...

SMITH: Some trucks like this one have a recording. Others have live talent.

Mr. JAMES NANCE (Retired Police Officer): Come out and vote. Exercise your right.

SMITH: I actually ran after this black Ford Econoline van cruising the south ward of Newark.

Excuse me for a second. Can I ride along with you?

Mr. NANCE: Sure. I'm James Nance. I'm a retired police officer here in the city of Newark.

SMITH: And he's been driving sound trucks for decades. He's almost 80 years old and you can't buy his services. He has to love a candidate before he'll jerry-rig his sound system.

Mr. NANCE: So, I adapted my own type of apparatus to hold the speakers.

SMITH: Yeah, it looks like you have bungee cords. And I got string wrapped around me here sitting in the front seat.

Mr. NANCE: Yes. Those are wires there going up to the speaker. And as you see, I had to have this contraption so I could speak while my hands are on the wheel.

All righty, all righty. It's that time where we're going to show our power, our voting power.

SMITH: The thing about a sound truck is that it's not broadcasting per se, it's more amplified conversation. Nance will pick out specific people.

Mr. NANCE: Step up. You know Rod? You know Rod, don't you?

SMITH: He'll tell people riding bikes, he'll yell at residents just peeking out from behind the curtains of their homes.

Mr. NANCE: Hello there. This is Jim Nance, retired police officer, asking you to lend support to my colleague, Cliff Minor.

SMITH: I don't know. They don't look too impressed.

Mr. NANCE: You can't judge them by looking at them. Some people are, some people aren't.

SMITH: But no one complains about the noise. Olivia Doherty even comes out of her beauty shop, Boswell's House of Coiffeurs. She says it would be like complaining about fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Ms. OLIVIA DOHERTY (Owner, Boswell's House of Coiffeurs): And believe it or not, we look forward to this day.

SMITH: Why do you look forward to this day?

Ms. DOHERTY: To liven up your neighborhood.

SMITH: It would be a very quiet election day if people just handed out literature?

Ms. DOHERTY: Yes, and we would stay right in the house.

SMITH: And that's just not going to happen if James Nance can help it. Not that he doesn't have a sensitive side. When she sees a woman pushing a sleeping baby, he backs up the mic just a tap.

Mr. NANCE: You make sure that baby votes for Cliff Minor, okay, honey?

SMITH: Robert Smith, NPR News.

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