Securing the VA House
- 50% increase in absentee ballots cast over previous off-off year election in most targeted districts
- More than 85,000 voters checked in with i360 Poll Flushing feature of i360 Walk; these voters were also removed from contact universes for volunteer calls and door knocks
- 45,000 voters contacted and reminded to vote on election day using i360 grassroots tools
Battling an “off-off” election cycle
2015 was what they call an “off-off” election year in Virginia; a year in which there are no Federal or statewide elections, yet all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and 40 seats in the State Senate are on the ballot. Historically in a 4-year election cycle, the off-off years result in the lowest voter turnout, presenting an election environment in which the winning campaigns are those who successfully identify and turn out the largest percentage of their base voters.
With this knowledge alone, the Virginia House Republican Caucus knew it was facing an uphill battle. On top of the anticipated low turnout, the caucus would have to overcome steep opposition. The sitting Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, had raised more than $7 million to support Democratic state legislative candidates in 2015. Although the Republicans held a 67-seat majority in the 100-seat House of Delegates, they were entering an environment where the election battle would be fought predominantly in the Northern Virginia suburbs, an increasingly difficult terrain for the GOP evidenced by the congressional seat and several state senate seat losses in recent years. Generally speaking, the low voter turnout observed in off-off years usually favors the Republicans, however 8 of the 10 targeted house districts had been won the previous year by Democrat Mark Warner in his re-election campaign for U.S. Senate.
Additionally the Virginia State Board of Elections had made a determination earlier in the year that electronic signatures would be accepted on absentee ballot applications. This impacted all GOTV plans and created a technological arms race to incorporate more efficient tools to allow voters to cast absentee ballots.
The challenge became one of maximizing the turnout ground game to ensure that every favorable voter made it to the polls on Election Day or voted by absentee ballot. With a low-turnout election, well-funded opponents, and districts that were trending in the wrong direction, an efficient GOTV operation was key and only possible with the most advanced and real-time tools available.
Maximizing reach and efficiency through i360 Call
Relying on their agility and ability to innovate and produce custom solutions quickly, the Virginia House Republican Caucus turned to i360 to develop and implement the best tools for the job. i360 quickly built two mobile app features that became instrumental in the Caucus’s GOTV strategy.
In order to capitalize on the new state guidance that electronic signatures would be acceptable for absentee ballots applications, i360 immediately went to work to find a solution that enable voters to submit absentee ballot applications via a mobile application. Because the Caucus had been using the i360 Walk app for months to knock on doors (over 600,000 doors in 2015), i360 was able to react and produce a solution quickly – building on top of the trusted Walk platform to add the Absentee Ballot Request (ABR) tool before the window for absentee ballot applications opened in Virginia.
The ABR tool integrated directly into the existing i360 Walk interface allows volunteers to quickly access a Virginia Absentee Ballot Application with the click of a button when they interact with a supportive voter while knocking on doors. The volunteer is then directed to a new page where the voter’s information is pre-populated in a digital version of the Virginia Absentee Ballot Application. This is followed by a prompt to view, edit, and confirm the information. After checking a box at the bottom for the electronic signature and clicking “Submit,” the process is complete and the absentee ballot application is on its way. Immediately thereafter, the local registrar’s office and the voter both receive a confirmation email with the absentee ballot application in PDF format.
To improve the efficiency of GOTV operations on Election Day, i360 further expanded the utility of the i360 Walk app, building and integrating a Poll Flushing functionality. This technology allowed volunteers and staffers to check voters in at their polling locations. The volunteer is assigned a precinct, and upon logging into the i360 Walk app, sees a list of all registered voters on their phone or tablet. As voters enter the polling locations, the volunteers simply check their names off from the list on their device.
This information is then sent in real time to i360 servers, where the voter record is immediately removed from all door and phone surveys being used in the field – maximizing volunteers’ efficiency by ensuring they are not wasting time calling or knocking the doors of voters who have already cast their ballots.
Additionally, with the real-time data of who has voted in each precinct, i360 developed interactive analytics dashboards allowing campaign staff to monitor all activity at polling locations. Armed with this information, they could make real-time decisions to reallocate resources based on results. If a campaign manager saw turnout of favorable voters lagging in a precinct that was crucial to the success of the campaign, he could immediately deploy volunteers to knock doors and make phone calls in that precinct.
Promoting absentee ballots early
In the top ten targeted House districts, Republicans won five, despite the fact that Democratic Senator Mark Warner had won 8 of 10 just one year before. Add in the facts that the party was outspent by Terry McAuliffe’s millions and that the majority of these races was in Northern Virginia, a historically difficult region for the right, the victories were even more impressive.
In total, the number of voters casting absentee ballots increased by 22% over the previous off-off year election, and in the most targeted districts the number of absentee ballot voters increased by 50%. In these targeted districts, volunteers, staff, and candidates knocked on over 400,000 doors using i360 Walk.
Using the Poll Flushing app on Election Day, volunteers checked in more than 85,000 voters. These 85,000 voters were also taken out of the contact universes for volunteer phone calls and door knocks, optimizing volunteers’ time and ensuring that they didn’t contact voters on who had already cast a ballot. In total, 43% of voters who cast ballots in the targeted races were tracked in real time through i360.
On Election Day alone, 45,000 voters were contacted and reminded to vote using i360 grassroots tools. The caucus was able to maximize efficiency and focus volunteer outreach only on the favorable voters who had yet to cast their ballots.
Overall, i360, in partnership with the Virginia House Republican Caucus, successfully built efficient grassroots tools that produced real electoral results. The groundbreaking Absentee Ballot Request tool allowed volunteers to request voter absentee ballots in just a few short clicks on a smartphone or tablet. It also integrated the absentee ballot plan into an already aggressive grassroots program. Additionally, the i360 Poll Flushing feature, integrated with i360 Walk, i360 Call, and real-time analytics, allowed the campaigns to make real-time decisions to optimize every hour of their volunteer GOTV operation.
”On Election Day, I was able to track in real time how the campaign was doing in each precinct, because our volunteers were checking off voters on the i360 app. By watching the analytics dashboards, I was able to make quick decisions to redirect volunteers to the precincts where they were most needed.Nick BlessingCampaign Manager, Greason for Delegate