Scooters help hopefuls reach more homes
LAWRENCEVILLE, Georgia (AP) -- Battery-powered Segway scooters, first unveiled three years ago, are being used by some politicians this election year
as an easy ride to door-to-door campaigning.
The high-tech transporters allow candidates to reach more homes in less time, allowing them to zip through streets and sidewalks at up to 12 mph with
almost no effort.
State Rep. John Heard, a Republican, has put the electric scooters to the test in suburban Atlanta's Gwinnett County -- sporting a red campaign sign
taped on the Segway's handle bars.
Tired of the long walks while looking for ways to reach more people, Heard learned about Segways by way of campaign consultant Bill McKinney, who got
the idea after watching police officers and meter readers use them in downtown Atlanta.
"It's hard to sell yourself when you're out of breath when you get there," Heard said. "By being on a Segway, you're not hot and sweaty, you're
not exhausted from walking, so you're focused on the conversation."
On a Segway, a candidate can reach three times more homes than on foot, said McKinney, who has consulted at least three other candidates in Georgia
who used Segways earlier this year while campaigning in the state's primaries.
McKinney, a big advocate of door-to-door canvassing, cites a Yale University study that indicated knocking on voters' doors can account for a 7
percent to 12 percent increase in overall voter turnout.
Despite the advantages, cost remains a concern for budget-strapped candidates. The Segways' $5,000 price tag -- or rentals of up to $1,000 per month
-- keep many away.
Heard lucked out by finding another politician in Gwinnett County who let him borrow a Segway at no charge.
Democrat Charlie Smith, who's running for a state House seat in South Carolina, struggled with door-to-door canvassing during a failed run for the
same seat in 2002. This time, the candidate, whose district includes parts of Charleston and nearby barrier islands, has had success in reaching
voters with his Segway.
"When you spend $40,000 on a mail program in a district my size, that's a fairly targeted approach, but you can spend $5,000 on something like this
and actually talk to voters face to face," he said.