Electing Gianforte: Absentee Voting for the Win in Montana Special Election


86 days for a special election

On March 1, 2017, Ryan Zinke was sworn in as President Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, and the race to replace him as US Representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district began.

Though Gianforte had the support of the Montana Republican Party and others behind him, Democratic contender Rob Quist also had substantial backing and a populist message that seemed to resonate with a portion of the Montana electorate.

That meant the campaign and Montana GOP had to rally support early and with only 86 days until the election, they needed to act fast to execute an effective absentee voting strategy.


Use i360’s closed-loop system to grow absentee ballots

The goal was clear: secure as many absentee votes before Election Day as possible.

Using i360’s data, grassroots tools and analytics capabilities, the Gianforte campaign and Montana GOP crafted a plan beginning with a Deep Dive Analysis. This analysis provided target universes that would form the basis for all targeting, including persuasion and turnout efforts in the field, digital advertising, and direct mail.

Once their volunteers were out in the field, staffers leveraged i360’s closed-loop system to scrub absentee voting data from grassroots contact universes daily, ensuring they weren’t wasting time and resources contacting voters who had already cast their ballots.

On the ground, volunteers used i360 Walk as they canvassed the homes of voters with a custom script encouraging them to show their support early and supplying absentee voting resources to lower the barrier to action.

With time working against them, the Montana GOP knew calls were going to be a big factor in their success. They were particularly active on i360 Call taking advantage of the predictive dialer algorithm to place more calls in less time than possible through traditional phone systems.

On the backend, i360 created a custom absentee voting dashboard within the i360 Portal to help the Montana GOP and Gianforte campaign track progress and realign their outreach strategy – reallocating resources and refining scripts.

i360’s closed-loop system and consistent processing of absentee voting data meant the campaign could run an informed and effective program from start to finish in a fraction of the time a normal campaign would need to execute a campaign plan. 


Turning out voters early

As the race became more competitive, the Montana GOP doubled down in the final month, logging an impressive 50,000 door attempts and nearly 300,000 calls. By Election Day, over 70% of the vote had been cast showing that the MT GOP’s grassroots efforts and detailed targeting had paid off.

“All of i360’s data and technology played a major role in our efforts in this race. However, their help with collecting and processing the absentee data throughout this shortened campaign cycle was a major boost to our efficiency and likely the overall outcome of the race.  It’s safe to say we will be taking advantage of i360’s absentee data and grassroots tools in future efforts” said Tim Gould, Executive Director of the Montana Republican Party.

Gianforte’s support proved to be too substantial for challenger Quist to overcome and on May 25, he prevailed winning this hotly contested election by 6%.


percent of votes cast early


point win margin
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