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Here's the problem:

There is the America that votes in presidential elections, which has helped Democrats win the popular vote in five out of the last six cycles and supports the view that Hillary Clinton can continue that streak should she run. Then there is the America that votes more regularly, casting ballots in both presidential and midterm years, which led to the Republican wave in 2010 and gives its party’s leaders reason to be so sanguine about their odds this time around.

There are about 127 million people in that first category, and among their number is the ascendant coalition—young and diverse, urban and mobile—that now gives Democrats a huge advantage in presidential races. But only 78 million of those people, or about 40 percent of the country’s voting-age population, belong to the group that goes to the polls every two years, and those regular voters carry a considerably more conservative cast. (The number of unregistered voters is almost as large.)

This is from an article by Sasha Issenberg, a fellow at UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs in The New Republic.  Our problem is really simple, too many of the people who support us in presidential elections just don't vote in midterm elections.  The solution to the problem is far more complicated, but very much within our grasp.

The Voter Participation Center, came out with a report a few months back that made a lot of headlines in the MSM.  They go through the exercise of trying to anticipate the falloff of voters in 2014, from the electorate of 2012.  As we all know, this typically hurts Dems, but it also offers us greater opportunity to get more of our supporters to the voting booths then the Repubs.

They've defined a class of voter which they call "The Rising American Electorate".

The    Rising    American    Electorate    (RAE)    –       
Unmarried Women, Youths (ages 18-29), African Americans,  Latnos, and all other non-white races now accounts for more than half of the votng eligible populaton in this country (53.5%).   

Unmarried    Women     18-29 Year Olds     African Americans  Latinos    Other Race   
        25.6%                     21.2%                  12.5%           10.8%        6.8%   

The RAE voters voted 67-32 for Obama in 2012, while the non-RAE voters voted 63-35 for Romney in 2012.  Now here's what the expected drop of voters from 2012 looks like.
64.1% of drop-off voters are members of the Rising    American    Electorate.   

• RAE Voter drop-off: Est. 21.8 million votes   
• Non-RAE Voter drop-off: Est. 12.2 million votes   
• Total drop-off: Est. 34 million votes       

Ok, we know what the problem is, but can we do anything about it?  You bet we can!  But it's going to take a lot of volunteers and it's going to take a new approach.  Getting our people to the voting booth takes a lot more than simply making a phone call on election day and begging them to go vote.  And it involves a lot more than knocking on their door and talking issues or telling the RAE voter we are angels and those other creeps are all devils.

It truly is a science now and they've made some real progress on getting people to the voting booth.  It takes a lot of work and money, but it's an effort and a dollar spent that can make the difference between President Obama getting many more judicial appointments approved, or having a bunch more Benghazi and IRS hearings for the next 2 years in the Senate.

Here's more of what Sasha Issenberg has to say about the process.

In their book The Gamble, George Washington University’s John Sides and UCLA’s Lynn Vavreck demonstrated that the persuasiveness of TV ads aired during the 2012 election dissipated within a day; after five days, it had worn off entirely.
I find this rather fascinating, but not all that unexpected.  If you live in a highly contested district in a highly contested state, with a couple of issues on the ballot, you are going to be constantly bombarded with TV and radio Ad's from Senate, Gubernatorial, house rep, local reps, and issue ads, and add to this the local car salesman who is trying to ride the election season with a funny ad about politics.  These Ad's are coming so quickly it's hard to remember what the last Ad was about, much less who sponsored it.

So GOTV may deliver more bang for the buck than flooding the airwaves with TV Ads, but what do we need to do?


Experiment after experiment has since confirmed the effectiveness of subtle prods that trigger what Rogers has called a citizen’s “basic need for belonging.” Addressing the recipient as “a voter” or “the type of person who votes” (a message born of a theory known as identity salience) produces a small increase in turnout. So does asking people to commit to a plan for when, where, and how they will vote (implementation intentions). Emphasizing that many other people will vote in an upcoming election (social-norms theory) has been proven more effective than bemoaning those who don’t show up.


In 2010, the America Votes consortium planned to send 800,000 pieces of mail in targeted congressional districts. Rogers, working with his colleague John Ternovski, randomized those letters so that half featured the proven language and half included that message plus an additional sentence in the upper right-hand corner: “You may be called after the election to discuss your experience at the polls.” (A control group received no mail at all.) Rogers and Ternovski were testing the potential of a new concept—self-integrity—by threatening accountability for potential voters who valued civic engagement. Their simple adjustment increased the letter’s impact by more than 50 percent and generated about 1,500 votes across the experiment.

Such results undercut the popular belief that Unreliable voters are driven to the polls by passion—either about a given candidate or the general political climate. Pollsters imbue this so-called intensity gap with near-prophetic powers: In mid-October 2012, for instance, the Politico–George Washington University Battleground Poll reported that Republicans led Democrats by a ten-point margin among those calling themselves “extremely likely” to turn out. But that didn’t prevent Obama’s reelection, of course. Similar findings about this year’s midterms (Battleground has Republicans up by seven points in the enthusiasm category now) will likewise reveal little about the returns come November.People cast ballots for reasons that have nothing to do with their excitement level. For Unreliable voters, specifically, it often takes a psychologically potent encounter to jolt them out of complacency.

How many times have you asked yourself, how can some of the people in a state like Wisconsin go out and vote for Obama and Baldwin in one election, and then stay home in the next and let all the potential gains get reversed?  What's wrong with these people?  I have to admit that I'm like many people here and am a political junkie that can't understand why everyone isn't deeply involved in politics.  So if these people aren't political junkies, why would we talk politics to them like they are?

As the above article explains, these people aren't going to react to a deep discussion of any issues, or a begging explanation of how important the election is. Many of the RAE's might not even know who there House Rep is, or can name 2 members of the Supreme Court.  They simply don't have the interest or maybe the time, to be as involved in politics as we are.  But the one thing they do know is, the Republicans suck, and the Democrats are no angels but they're a hell of a lot better than the Republicans. So when they walk in that voting booth every presidential election, they're going to pull that lever for the Democrats.

The REA's view politics at a more gut level and that's how the new approach to GOTV gets them to the polls.  By using techniques like  “basic need for belonging”, "identity salience", and "implementation intentions", we talk to these voters at the gut level they approach politics with. These techniques can be wrapped in simple phone messages, talking points, or lit drops and mailings.  It's a 21st century approach toward 21st century voters.

This diary is getting a bit on the long side, but there's a lot more to know about the science of GOTV.  If you're wondering if the Democratic leadership knows about these advancements in getting people to vote, the answer is yes.  

The Democrats have something they call The Bannock Street Project.

It runs through 10 states, includes a $60 million investment and requires more than 4,000 paid staff members. And the effort will need all of that — and perhaps more — to achieve its goal, which is nothing short of changing the character of the electorate in a midterm cycle.
Changing the very character of the electorate.  When you poll the entire public, they overwhelming support progressive policies, and they strongly support Democratic candidates.  When you poll registered voters, the Democrats win by a smaller margin but enough to make some real changes.  When you count the votes on election day, the Democrats have to fight tooth and nail to pull out small victories.

If everyone voted, we would be living in a very different country.  Bad things happen, when good people don't vote.


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Comment Preferences

  •  This has long been a frustration of mine. (21+ / 0-)

    I vote because my calendar tells me today is Election Day - period.  My parents set the example.  They were never involved in politics, but they also never missed an election.  Frankly civics classes should teach that in our system it is a citizen's JOB to vote.  We expect our executives, legislators, judges, political appointees, and civil servants to show up and do their jobs that make our system work.  We should expect nothing less of ourselves and our fellow citizens.

  •  I was happy to see this: (14+ / 0-)
    The Bannock Street project is specifically focused on 10 states — Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana and West Virginia — with plans for senior field operatives and other staff members to be in place by the end of the month.
    I am definitely getting the impression of reaching out to younger voters - the campaign events this year at college campuses look more like a presidential year than the usual midterm.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 06:41:56 AM PDT

    •  I just wish we had more details. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pollwatcher, elwior, Wee Mama, unfangus

      Other than those raw numbers for $ and staff, I can't find any information out there about what they are actually doing on the ground to GOTV.

      The items mentioned in this diary in particular are very specific: word usage when addressing the voter, a single statement added to a mailer, etc.

      We have no idea if those sorts of things are being incorporated into the Bannock Street Project. It's been incredibly tight-lipped...which makes it hard to evaluate whether it's going to make a difference.

      Our Fair City...a campy post-apocalyptic science fiction radio epic!

      by The BBQ Chicken Madness on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:21:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think they'll tell us the game plan (5+ / 0-)

        That's not something we want the Republicans spending a gazillion dollars to counter.

        My guess is they are using a lot of the paid staff to ID the RAE's and to train volunteers on how to contact and talk to the RAE's using these modern techniques.  I'll bet there's a good chunk of money going to social media contacts.

        I'm going to try and dig into this a little deeper, and if I find some good stuff, I'll follow up with another diary.

      •  I have been contacted to volunteer (6+ / 0-)

        and have been invited to show up to rallies , but you must on your representatives mailing and phone lists to get informed , they are gathering and calling people as we speak

        Call your closest democratic campaign office , they will put you to work or inform you of what exactly is going on , my U S House rep , who is running for an empty seat , contacted me 2 weeks ago , and their office was also partially functioning for the Iowa U S Senate open seat , along with the dems running for state level offices , they all have campaign head quarters and offices all over , and we are working the script described in the diary

        People going door to door and calling does make a difference , when these casual voters see other people making  an effort , it is motivates them to join in , it makes the election look more important , because it is

        I have physical limitations , so I will work the phone banks

        Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers

        by Patango on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:45:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree, and I thank you for the work you do. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Peer pressure counts, and we might as well use it on the side of the good. My House rep doesn't need my help since I've been gerrymandered into a solidly blue district, but Kay Hagan sure could use all the help she can get.

  •  Shorter version of why Dems don't vote (5+ / 0-)

    as much as Repubs in midterm elections:

    Presidential election year:

    Woohoo Obama/Hillary's running! I'm like totally THERE!

    Midterm election year:

    Umm, there's an election this year? No Obama/Hillary? BORING!

    Our base is casual, their's not so much. That they're crazy, stupid and mean is totally besides the point, because their's votes and our's doesn't.

    Yep, we need to change our approach. Is Katy Perry available?

    "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

    by kovie on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:13:13 AM PDT

    •  More likely to have less settled lives (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, gramofsam1

      Many of the people in this group move more, are likely to work several jobs, and for single mothers, are juggling a lot of pies.  The older, wealthier GOP voters have more settled lives. The are often retired.  It doesn't help to belittle our voters.  We need to understand what is needed to get them to the polls.

      Don't bet your future on 97% of climate scientists being wrong. Take action on climate now!

      by Mimikatz on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 09:42:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Are there numbers to support that assertion? (0+ / 0-)

        Granted, I have no numbers to support mine, but my anecdotal experience is that most people who aren't politically active or aware just can't be troubled to vote unless there's an "exciting" reason to do so.

        Sure, many are so overwhelmed by life and have to deal with hard to get to polling places with long lines, but I doubt that this is the primary reason. Most people just don't care enough. Excuse-making is no way to run a party.

        "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

        by kovie on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 02:06:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The powers that be have ignored off-year (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kat herder

      elections far too much, as well. Some of our "strategists" really aren't so strategic, but they're pretty damn good at playing moneyed egotists.

  •  I've heard of the vote/voter NLP thing (9+ / 0-)

    and find it intriguing.

    I also wonder about a simple message along the lines of "Whether or not you vote, one of these people is going to win. And have power over you. Choose."

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:14:10 AM PDT

    •  Explicitly true for civil servants & military,... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, Crashing Vor

      ..voluntary relationships today, and to an extent those on public assistance (e.g., federal unemployment extensions impacted but not SS) - many but not all - but I wonder how many voters (or non-voters) really believe as you do in a directly personally tangible way...

      And have power over you.
      I doubt if many do. I doubt if my own household has ever been significantly impacted one material way or another by who is in DC. Civic pride and participation is a primarily em>social thing, no? One's morals, principles, and values seem to motivate rather than WIFM.

      The Republicans are great at the WIFM approach - every Rep Pres seems to give everyone a $200 - $2000 tax rebate checks. BFD.

      Maybe Dems can have an explicit tangible WIFM answer...

      Union preservation might used to have been a, not so much more than a dream of tangibility...

      •  Yes, your household has been directly impacted (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Crashing Vor, gramofsam1

        by taxes, inadequate regulations, attempts to shred the safety net and deny human rights, and above all by destroying the economy and the environment.

        You make less money than you should.

        You pay too much for education of far poorer quality than it should be.

        The air is shortening your life.

        You don't have single-payer health care.

        There are too damn many guns.

        All of the beaches are going to be underwater.

        and so on.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:07:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  None of those impact my life much less... (0+ / 0-)

          ...would I feel the gov't in DC has "power over me" in any tangible way. I only speak for myself of course but WIFM is not in my leading criteria for voting.

          •  Then why did you ask WIFM? (0+ / 0-)

            Also, if you are making as much money as you should you have to be in the 1%, so I don't believe you on that point, nor on most of the others. You talk like a denialist Republican.

            I get that you could be certain that you will never want to go to a beach, though.

            Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

            by Mokurai on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 10:22:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  so, my original comment was about the sense... (0+ / 0-)

              ...of our gov't "having power over your which is an adequate term for many but not at all for many so it's important not to assume it's such a universal sentiment or measure. Of course the env imoacts us all tangibly but it seems remote from having "power" over voters.

      •  I have health insurance for the first time ever (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gramofsam1, kck

        because of a temporary state of political balance in Washington.

        I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

        by Crashing Vor on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 10:13:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'm just glad they named such an important (11+ / 0-)

    project after such an important Kossak.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:17:06 AM PDT

  •  I have avoided this for as long as possible, (7+ / 0-)

    But will get involved today with GOTV in CO. I just didn't have extra energy before. Thanks!

    “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Thomas Edison, 1931

    by nzanne on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:40:45 AM PDT

  •  Also a Big Reason So Many Local Elections Are On (6+ / 0-)

    non-Presidential years, it gives the localities a strong conservative and upper middle class governing bias.

    So there is potential in recruiting and otherwise generating good local progressive candidates, to first improve turnout, and second build up our farm team even in ostensibly red states.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 07:42:52 AM PDT

  •  "Bad things happen, when good people don't vote." (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher, elwior, nzanne

    This should be on every billboard in the country.

    Along with a photo of whoever the local republican candidate is.

  •  i'm curious--in states with mail-in ballots, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, pollwatcher

    what is the legality of simply having canvasseers going door-to-door after ballots are mailed out, asking people to fill them out at the door, then taking them all with you to mail them all out?

    Would that be any different legally than collecting voter registrations?

    In the end, reality always wins.

    by Lenny Flank on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:06:38 AM PDT

  •  Election Day as a national holiday... (6+ / 0-)

    ...I still can't figure out that hasn't happened yet.

    Seems like a huge step towards getting people to the polls.

    More time for voters.
    More available volunteers to work the polls.
    National visibility of the election.

    Our Fair City...a campy post-apocalyptic science fiction radio epic!

    by The BBQ Chicken Madness on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 08:14:46 AM PDT

    •  Election Day should be treated like Christmas. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, pollwatcher

      It would be a great gift to the nation.

    •  Any chance of passing the Repub obstructionists? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'm all for anything that would increase voter turnout, but as many Republican states have shown, they'll do anything just to prevent Democrats from voting.

      Some countries require people to vote.  I wouldn't go that far, but I wouldn't mind exploring the possibility of denying some government benefits to people who don't vote.

      •  GOTV includes the entire process (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Get legal immigrants who qualify to become citizens. Register citizens. Get registered voters the ID they need, and get them to the polls. Get young voters to commit to voting, and make it a lifelong habit.

        Above all, make it plain that your vote does count when we vote together.

        And put up better and more diverse candidates, including Blacks, Browns, women, LGBTs, and issue experts. Scientists, even.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:09:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  mail in ballots (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pollwatcher, elwior

      Let people vote when they want.

      In the end, reality always wins.

      by Lenny Flank on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 09:08:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not opposed to mail-in ballots. (0+ / 0-)

        I just think that a National Holiday is still a step in the right direction, and more likely on a Federal level in terms of passing.

        I'd be curious which method would yield higher turnout, as a national "Election Day" would also serve as a great reminder of the election.

        Mail-in would probably still be higher, I think. I recall voting rates in Oregon (or was it Washington State?), where they do mail-in being very high.

        Our Fair City...a campy post-apocalyptic science fiction radio epic!

        by The BBQ Chicken Madness on Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 02:43:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  We need to get young people motivated (5+ / 0-)

    to get out there and actually work our GOTV efforts.  I had a frustrating experience a little over a week ago.  I'd volunteered to canvass Saturday morning and the guy I was partnered with brought along his two little girls.  It turned out that he didn't feel comfortable canvassing in our assigned neighborhood.  The neighborhood was a bit run down and majority black, but there are much poorer neighborhoods in Greenville, SC.  Where did this asshole want us to be canvassing? Botany Woods or some other upscale neighborhood?  These are our people.

    I came home, baked the lasagna I was making to take to HQ and went back at noon to canvass till 4.  That neighborhood that we were supposed to canvass. That was covered by a woman who was almost 70 and myself.  Two old white ladies walking around in the supposedly dangerous neighborhood!

  •  Bannock Street is not the only major GOTV project (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Battleground Texas is another. Ben Jealous has been talking about others involving tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of volunteers. Taking that and Bannock Street together would include all of the former Confederacy except Mississippi. (Their time will also come.) And more.

    When we can get ten more swing states, including ten more Democratic Senators plus control of the House, it's over for Rs, just like the implosion of the Federalist Party from 1800-1815. They went from being the original Party of No to Thomas Jefferson to being unable to win even statewide office anywhere. It was 18 years before another party of big business, the Whigs, came together.

    Voter registration is the antidote to voter suppression

    Our new report from the Southern Elections Foundation and the Center for American Progress, “True South: Unleashing Democracy in the Black Belt 50 Years After Freedom Summer,” reveals that large investments in voter registration can unleash democracy in states that have historically resisted it…

    All in all, the report found that registering 60 percent of unregistered black, Hispanic, and Asian voters would upset the balance of power in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas in either a presidential or midterm election year. In a presidential election year, Alabama would be added to the list.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

    by Mokurai on Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 11:05:05 AM PDT

  •  OK so how to support GOTV (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in other states, elections...

    We've already contributed to many candidates directly (we don't give to the party) and would like to support GOTV efforts for those candidates.  As noted, the Bannock St. project is in only 10 states and is for the Senate.  So what are we to do?

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    •  contact your local Dem party (0+ / 0-)

      or even contact the candidate's office.  The party usually heads up the GOTV efforts so the candidates are free to concentrate on their campaigns.

      •  We've contributed to candidates nationwide (0+ / 0-)

        That's a lot of contacting.  Is there a group that specializes in GOTV around the country or even similarly to what's described here?  Are we simply left with donating to the party which we are loath to do.

    •  There are many GOTV projects where you can make (0+ / 0-)

      phone calls from out of state. I don't have a list, but they are not very hard to find if you use your search engines and ask around.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Wed Sep 03, 2014 at 10:42:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We could use your help (0+ / 0-)

      in Texas. After being founded in February 2013, Battleground Texas has been registering voters and training volunteers here to GOTV. (Here's Wikipedia for more history.)

      Battleground is working to elect Wendy Davis as governor, Leticia Van de Putte as lieutenant governor, and selected house district candidates around the state. We also ask voters to vote straight ticket.

      I have been volunteering with them since the beginning because I know that their game plan was badly needed and will get results here.

      They also have virtual phone bank so that you can make calls for us from out-of-state.

      "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

      by nomandates on Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 07:14:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sticking to the script (0+ / 0-)

    Something difficult for volunteers is sticking to a script that doesn't feel natural. I'm in the habit too of rewriting to what feels comfortable, and when scripts weren't based in research, that probably worked just fine. It's important that volunteers are told that the script is based on research. You still have to adjust it so it feels natural, but we might do better if we knew certain phrases are particularly important. Otherwise, "thank you for being a voter" will get tossed because it intuitively feels weird. Yet we've never had so much research behind our methods, so breaking the habit of complete rewrites is important.

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