High-tech, no-tech methods paying off for voter engagement

"Getting anything in the mail is pretty exciting, but I was not expecting this."

Ian Bush
October 22, 2018 - 10:00 pm

KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- Polls point to historic levels of excitement surrounding the midterm election. Turning that into actual votes is one job of local political party organizations, which are trying new methods of outreach -- and improving well-tested practices.

"Getting anything in the mail is pretty exciting, but I was not expecting this," says Brendan, a student at Syracuse University.

He opened the mailbox at his college apartment to find a this Democrats back home in Chester County: an application for an absentee ballot and an already-stamped envelope addressed to his home board of elections.

"I did end up mailing it," Brendan says. "It's very good on their part to ensure I am voting, but it doesn't necessarily mean I'm committed to voting for them. It kind of shows their commitment to making sure a lot of people in my demographic are able to get out and vote this November."

Brendan is a registered independent. He was surprised the Democratic Party was able to track him down to his college address.

He shouldn't be.

"We have sent out probably over 10,000 letters," says Chester County Democratic Committee chairman Richard Bingham, who notes voter services received 700 completed applications in just one day. (That postage stamp appears to help.)

"Voters are really energized right now," Bingham says. "The enthusiasm is high."

Republicans are tapping into that enthusiasm with a canvassing app called GeoConnect, which pools volunteers and arms them with datapoints unique to each voter.

"We've got thousands of volunteers doing it -- all in state," says Val DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Committee. "They've made more than 4.5 million voter contacts this year."

But he says it's not an echo chamber: the app helps target "disaffected Democrats" and "conservative-leaning independents" with a specific message designed to influence their vote on November 6th.

The Dems are using similar digital tools, but old-school methods -- like that college student outreach – also appear to be paying off.

"We're well ahead of any past performance for a midterm election," Bingham says. "This is shaping up to look a lot like a presidential year election."