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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

Decentralized GOTV

The other "innovation" to come out of the SD3 special election for me other than than using Streets and Trips for canvassing, was decentralizing our GOTV system.

This was a test of a get out the vote system which we would like to try and use for 2008, when more precincts and volunteers are in play.

Marion used a centralized system in past elections, as we only were were working a few precincts. Which was fine, being that's all the volunteers we had to spare. However, its major drawback was response time. Marion Oaks, a set of key Democratic precincts in the southern area of the county is around a 30 to 40 minute drive from Dem HQ. Silver Springs Shores, another set of key Dem precincts, is around 15-20 minutes away from HQ. It would take even longer getting lists back to HQ for data entry and evaluation after 5pm as the workforce heads back home. Traffic is terrible on some of the arteries that lead to these two key areas.

To be perfectly honest, decentralizing GOTV, is by no means an "easier" system. It takes more work and effort, but it all pays off in both reaction time and effectiveness. Also, think long term. If a DEC is targeting more than a dozen precincts, some of which may be in different corners of their respective county, is it logistically feasible to bring a dozen or so runners back to HQ periodically throughout the day. How about response? Does your HQ have the number of phone lines to call the thousands of voters that haven't shown up to vote yet? Does your HQ have the sheer space to handle all those callers, much less those callers who bring their cell phones? What about knock and draggers (canvassers)? How do we communicate with them and get them the resources (maps in particular) they need fast enough to have an impact? As you can see, it can get pretty sticky very quickly.

Looking at the long term picture, it seems more and more likely that GOTV systems will have to be more decentralized. What we did in SD3 is take three precincts and test out decentralization. We had mixed results largely because we couldn't get the half-dozen volunteers needed for each precinct in time. That goes to show you how hard getting volunteers was for us, particularly those who would be willing to knock and drag. Most had done calling in the previous week and didn't really want to do much more: aka "burnout in the first degree."

Ironically, while we never truly tested out the entire idea in one precinct, different pieces were tested out in all three. God (or coincidence for our atheist/agnostic friends) is a funny guy. The system itself worked. It didn't produce any noticeable results largely because of a lack of manpower.

Here's how it all works in a broad sense.

1.) You have poll watchers pre-assigned to your targeted precinct's polling places. They're sitting behind the poll workers with a poll list from VAN of all the Dems (and favorable independents if you've identified them) in that precinct who haven't voted yet.

2.) Each targeted precinct has a GOTV leader, who acts as the runner (picking up lists from the poll watcher at pre-assigned times throughout the day) and the "commander" of the precinct and its volunteers. This person is typically one of the precinct captains of the targeted precinct. They've been given training weeks or months ago about what to do.

3.) Someone's home in the precinct acts a field office, technically called a "Turnout Control Center" or "TCC". TCCs are designated months before the election. At the TCC, the GOTV leader uses VAN to enter in all the Dems who have voted so far. All Dems over the age of 65 who haven't voted yet get plugged into Streets and Trips and maps are given to individual canvassing teams. Dems under the age of 65 are given to volunteers with cell phones.

4.) This process is repeated a total of 3 times during Election Day. As data comes in from the precincts, folks at Dem HQ can monitor the results on VAN, and instruct GOTV leaders in the field on any changes.

Obviously we will continue to experiment with this method as more elections (aka opportunities) come down the line.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Republicans Losing Hispanics

h/t to FLA Politics:

"Whether it's temporary disenchantment with President Bush, fallout from the immigration debate or part of a political and demographic shift, Democrats in Florida and nationally are making major strides with crucial Hispanic voters."

You can read the full story here.

With Republicans continuing to give the middle finger to this growing and ever-critical swing demographic, Democrats have reaped huge gains. Recall in 2006 Democrats won the Hispanic vote in Florida for the first time in 30 years.

Particularly with people in the Republican Party like crazy Tom Tancredo, I don't see this trend shifting anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Effective Canvassing with Streets and Trips

Remember the last time you went canvassing? Yeah, it was repulsively hot and steamy, with some stranger named Steve, roaming throughout God knows where to talk to who knows what, meanwhile sweating your cajones off and finding that you can't feel your feet anymore? Not to mention avoiding the man-eating dogs and the occasional alligator...or an NRA Republican.

The above situation is a bit exaggerated, but canvassing can be difficult and frustrating if not done right. Streets and Trips can help.

Canvassing is the most valuable activity a DEC or campaign performs. Its the most personal contact there is: one on one. The more personal the contact, the more effective it is. Of course, the most effective activity also takes the most planning and resources.

This post isn't about necessarily how to plan and prepare a canvassing operation, this is about making one of the biggest, time consuming obstacles of canvassing far easier than it used to be. The hardest thing about canvassing is giving people accurate maps and lists to work from. Even presidential campaigns are still giving canvassers those huge room sized maps to take with them to figure out where to go.

With Streets and Trips all you need is a simple 8.5 X 11 peice of paper with a map and directions on it. Of course, you'll also need to include a list of your voters in alphabetical order in addition to any campaign materials you have to pass out and/or leave in people's doorways.

Basically, you download a list of people you want to canvass from VAN in Excel. Open up Streets and Trips and import the list (just like if you were going to do a mail merge - only without the maddening frustration.) Every address is plotted as a pushpin like so:

Neat, huh?

Then you select a bunch of pushpins and get a route, directions, and "Optimize Stops" and voila you get this:

No more getting lost and trying to find targeted households. Typically, the average canvasser can cover around 10-20 households and hour the traditional way. Our volunteers were doing an estimated 25-35 houses an hour using these pre-drawn maps yesterday. The volunteers really enjoyed using this "new" technology, and were impressed with how much easier the whole canvassing process was.

Streets and Trips is not exactly a big expense either. Just click the link above and find out. Its a great investment your DEC can make.

March of the Postmortems

Analysis and opinion is pouring in about the special election yesterday:

Why Calling Supervoters Is Dumb: "Calling primary voters was completely worthless. The time and energy used to call these people five or ten times could have been spent engaging voters who did not vote in the primary, notifying them of the election, and encouraging them to go out and vote..."

What Went Wrong: "Anyway, what really happened? That's more complex than people like Greer [Chairman of the Florida Republican Party] seem capable of publicly understanding. It's actually quite clear, though. The Dems did worse for a number of reasons, and these things have a lot of overlap..."

More Thoughts on SD3: "First, nothing went wrong. The results were about what was expected. It’s unrealistic to think that a political outsider and newcomer is going to defeat a popular, local candidate with deep roots in his community.However . . ."

My own analysis can be found here:

Postmortem for SD3: "Getting beat - and beat hard - sucks. Plain and simple. However, I told our GOTV leaders, and volunteers yesterday that I'm always an optimist. I guess when you're 20 you can 'afford' to be that. But here's the thing: aren't you glad we made these mistakes and found these errors now rather than in 2008? I sure as hell am..."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Community Presence

Ray has talked a bit about community outreach in the "Party Building" series, but I had a further suggestion that I thought I'd talk about briefly. The Democratic Party, by definition, is the party of the people. But when do the Party and the people directly interact? Almost never. Candidate forums, DEC meetings, public party's and picnics, etc., are in many cases the only places where the public can find DECs or DEC members in public. All of these events are DEC-centric (or candidate-centric, etc.). There is some merit to those type of events, of course, but they shouldn't be the entire program of activities.

In order to be the party of the people, the Democratic Party needs to go to where the people are. Each DEC needs to identify the community events and activities that allow for or encourage political participation. And then they need to be at ALL of those events. Even if it is one or two members at a table with a sign and a sign-up sheet, the Democratic Party should be at every event in the community that they can have a public presence at. Let people know that you are part of the community and let people know that you care about what they care about. That's how you start building a name in the community and how you make the personal connections and relationships that are everything in politics.

These public appearances should include, but not be limited to:

*National holidays (July 4th, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.)
*Local holidays (The anniversary of the founding of the town, etc.)
*Multicultural festivals
*Any kind of political rally
*Charity rallys (Cancer walks and similar events)
*Minority and/or disfavored group celebrations (African-Americans, women, gays, ethnic groups)
*Union activities
*Church/synagogue/temple activities for progressive or Democratic-leaning religious organizations
*Anything else you can think of (leave additional examples in comments, please).

There is no reason that we shouldn't appear at all of these events. We have to let our constituents know that we support them and that we share the same values year-round, every year, not just at election time. If we want their support, we need to give them ours.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Taking Monday and Tuesday Off

I'm helping with the GOTV for the Special Election for Senate District 3 the next couple of days, so I'll be out of commission until Wednesday. I should have a decent postmortem up, as well as talk about a few "new" tactics we experimented with in Marion County, what went right, wrong, etc...

If you live in SD3 (Baker, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Suwannee, Taylor, and parts of Citrus, Columbia, Jefferson, Leon, Levy, Madison, and Marion counties) remember to vote on Tuesday the 26th. If you have a Democratic friend in the district, give 'em a call!

Wish Suzan Franks luck!