Starting this morning, you can go down to your local board of elections and vote in the November election. Seems like a good moment to take a look at early vote impact on my own election September 7. There are a couple lessons for Democrats.
About 56% of the turnout in District 7 was early vote. We were expecting higher, given that the May primary had a 60% early vote turnout, the September election was the day after Labor Day, and there was a lot of media attention paid to this increased use of early vote. I suspect the 56% number is a function of lower overall turnout, and the district itself – Cleveland wards 3, 7, 8, 9, & 12. Largely inner city. Still, 56% is a big number, fairly consistent with the trend, and likely to be higher for a November election, maybe as high as 70%. For anyone on the ballot in November, it probably means that if you win the early vote, you win the election. Yay!
In District 7, about 6,000 voters requested early vote ballots. Only about 3,500 ballots were returned, around 58%. So a requested ballot is not a returned ballot – seems obvious, but that gets forgotten. What does this mean? First, there is GOTV in them thar applications. Go and get them. You have a voter IDing themselves as having a ballot in their hands, you simply have to go after them if you have the resources. This certainty is a luxury – it narrows your targeting to actual votes.
We targeted early vote persuasion to our core precincts, where we won handily. Knock on the door, robocall, direct mail, etc, repeatedly. We didn’t have enough resources to go after every early voter – scarce resources are simply a fact of life. But where we deployed our resources, turnout went up, and so did our vote total.
What’s it all mean?
Well, early vote is now a huge opportunity for voter ID and persuasion, person to person, on the doorstep, if you can organize the resources to do so. It’s not really GOTV, except in your base of course. It’s first ID, then persuasion. And not necessarily with message, either, although a good message is critical, of course. The mere fact of a campaign’s presence in front of an undecided early voter, who is sitting on a ballot, says all you need to say. A voter wants to be asked for their vote. If you go and ask, repeatedly, you probably will get it. Close the deal right there.
Of course, there are a lot more tea leaves to read in early vote analysis. But the bottom line is that early voters are literally inviting you to come over and ask them for their vote.
So go and do it.