Thursday, October 08, 2009

Absentee ballots

Times have definitely changed and Election Day means less and less – or rather, Election Day is now more like Election Month. The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is no longer the day you can vote, it is merely the last day you are allowed to vote.

Washington (state) has gone to 100% vote by mail. California sees roughly 1/3 of votes cast one week before the election and that is fast becoming the case in Florida.

Though Peter Schorsch recently claimed that “[he] was one of the very first consultants in Florida to recognize the value of tracking ‘absentee ballot requesters,’" I will have to be more than a little skeptical of such a claim – not that I can claim it for myself, but that I can remember the late, great Linda Hennessey coming down to South Florida in 2000 to educate several campaigns about working an aggressive absentee ballot campaign, which makes Peter’s claim more than a little unlikely, unless he was advising Al Gore or George W. Bush ten years ago.

But, absentee ballots do change everything.

They change when and how GOTV takes place.

For many smaller candidates, enacting a massive campaign to sign up people for absentee ballots does not make sense as an investment. The key investment is tracking and chasing those people who have already requested absentee ballots. They are VERY likely voters and it is foolish to let them slip away without some form of contact from your campaign.

Absentee ballots also change the timing of when direct mail starts – moving it earlier. Typically, you would backload a direct mail campaign – with one a week until the last 10-14 days, when you would drop four pieces. Now, with up to 1/3 of the vote gone 7-10 days before the election, do you change your mail schedule.
There are no easy answers here (believe me – candidates in Washington state still struggle to get the timing right).


At 10/08/2009 09:54:00 PM, Blogger Peter Schorsch said...

C'mon, CM, you should have checked with me first before you wrote something about me.

I was working the absentee ballot angle for Sebesta, Farkas and Waters in 1998. Along with my boss Jack Hebert, we designed mailpieces prompting absentee ballot requests, etc., that would go to a separate post office box. This was but one of a dozen measures we used that year. Look at the data. I don't remember it specifically, but I remember that all of my candidates outperformed their election day experience.

As for Bush vs. Gore, I was completing absentee ballot requests for GOP voters -- hundreds at a time. And by 2000, The Mallard Group, of which I was by then Creative and Political Director was getting paid by the RPOF, etc., for what then was pioneering ABR management.

We also used these techniques at the local level, which led to a string of 12 consecutive municipal election wins.

And on and on.

At 10/09/2009 10:52:00 AM, Blogger Campaign Manager said...

Sorry, Peter – I just don’t believe that as a 20 year old kid at the Mallard Group you were among the first consultants to advocate for chasing absentee ballots or that you had real input into the Bush/Cheney 2000 absentee ballot program.

I believe that, just I was doing ten years ago, you were executing someone else’s plan (though for a different party).

At 10/15/2009 08:30:00 AM, Blogger Peter Schorsch said...

Im sorry if you don't believe me, but it's the truth. Remember, Frank Farkas had lost in 1996 before I came aboard at The Mallard Group.

You know, I was once very, very good at this job. I was never ever implementing someone else's plan. The outreach to ABRs was something I thought of.

As for Bush Gore, all I am saying is that TMG was hired to design ABR mail, based on proposals written by me and implemented once hired.

Also, at 22, I was a senior writer at the James Madison Institute.

At 10/15/2009 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Campaign Manager said...

Sorry - I have always been on the other side (Democrat), but chasing absentee ballots is not something that either of us can take credit for. On the GOP side, you have to go back to Jim Baker.

And I'll need more than "Frank Farkas lost before I came on board."

Even though I'm wearing my "anti-tiger attack" good luck charm, I'm not convinced that I have much to do with the lack of tiger attacks in Pinellas County.

At 10/15/2009 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Peter Schorsch said...

No, you have to go back to Frank Terrafirma and the RPOF circa 1998-2000.

At 10/16/2009 09:33:00 AM, Anonymous Bruce Cotton said...

I was doing Absentee ballot work in 96 for Rep Lynn on her re-election campaign.

That was the first cycle were RPOF was actively doing it.

At 10/16/2009 01:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was working on this issue back when Jeb Bush first ran for governor in 1994.

At 10/18/2009 05:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim Baker was the first on the GOP side and anyone who says differently - especially people who only 20 years old back in 1998 - is full of it.


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