Ground Game

On the final days, and election day itself, it’s all about the ‘ground game’. All online, radio and TV messages have switched to persuading people to ‘get out the vote’. Thousands of volunteers from each side do anything and everything they can to persuade voters to leave their homes and queue, sometimes for hours, to vote for their candidate.

There’s the phone calls, to establish whether the database the campaign has is accurate. Are they undecided? Are they voting? Do they need a ride to their polling place? Democrat volunteers fill out questionnaire forms, and others enter it into the custom ‘Vote Builder’ system or the Republican equivalent.

There’s the face to face canvassing to sway undecideds or to encourage soft voters to commit to the party vote. It has to be done when people are home, of course, which means it’s evening, which means it’s cold. Here too there’s a checklist, and a series of points to help the volunteer answer questions the (potential) voter has.

If no commitment to vote has been recorded, on election eve another volunteer will place a ‘hanger’ on the door of the house, with images of the candidates, the location of the polling place, and a number to call should the voter need a ride to the poll.

Campaign offices run shifts throughout the nights leading up to election day preparing the ‘packets’ – folders with a map and a list of addresses with the status of the voter marked, and the materials to distribute. On Sunday night we drove an hour to neighbouring Hazelton at 1 am to help a team assembling the packets, which consisted of unfurling a roll of ‘vote today’ stickers into sets of 50. It became a competitive sport of course, as such things do amongst slightly manic sleep-deprived true believers. I was terrible at it, obviously.

Monday night – election eve – I am convinced a skillful ploy from the Scranton Democratic campaign team was deployed; float a rumour that President Clinton would be stopping by the office to thank the crew for their hard work to ensure volunteers returned to the office instead of their borrowed beds, then task whoever is left standing with midnight orienteering games. Finding a house number on a poorly lit Scranton street while battling fatigue is not easy, so I was lead to believe.

Driving around in circles in the small hours looking for the one house that was missed feels like operating at the far end of the far end of the fringes, though saying so triggers a response about Florida that seems well practiced. The coordinators are as strident as they are grateful. It gets uncomfortably gushy when they detect accents.

Election day itself is more of the same, after the best 30 minutes of sleep the team has ever enjoyed. Any voters vaguely leaning towards the preferred candidates who have not given a firm commitment to vote are revisited one last time, and cajoled as politely as possible.

Drive to a suburban street. Canvassers dive out and take one side of the street each, armed with sweet smiles and stickers. Meet at the end of street. Drive to the next street marked on the map. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Try to sustain enthusiasm for the voice of the President as the vote today ad plays over the radio yet again; although there seems to be no problem finding new ways to scoff at the Romney ads played just as frequently, and often straight after the Democrat ads. One more house ticked off is one step closer to the party at the end of the night. When the polls close at 8 pm the coordinators will hopefully let go, satisfied that they did everything they could, and start biting their nails.

It’s been broadly stated that the coordination of this massive undertaking is an area of advantage for the Democratic campaign, though the Republicans have closed the gap considerably since 2008.

In a few hours we’ll know which campaign has done enough. Join us here at Limited News to watch it unfold live. We’ll also share the best places online to get the latest news, background information and memes.


Picture via Creative Commons license by pixbymaia

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