The polls look good for the Biden/Harris ticket right now. The president’s poor handling of the pandemic, the resulting economic collapse and his poor performance of the first debate have resulted in a number of declines in key battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden has been very consistent in his widening lead over the Commander in Chief and has more support than Clinton ever had.
But this forecast could be wrong for two reasons. The first is various voter suppression and integrity damaging techniques being deployed by the White House. The second is because of a completely legal thing the Republican campaign is doing that will almost certainly have a significant impact on the results, which hardly anyone is talking about and the mainstream media is all but ignoring. And if my logic is correct, this legal tactic is invisible to the polls.
Voter suppression and integrity damaging techniques
We have to give 45 credit for trying novel approaches to voter suppression and election disruption. You have likely heard about the post office being hobbled by a presidential crone DeJoy, most recently with the removal of mail sorting machines. You have perhaps heard of the hundreds of lawsuits prepared to contest changes in voting laws in the battlegrounds of Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The initial budget estimate for these lawsuits was $20 million.
What you may not have heard of is the 1982 federal consent decree agreed to by Republicans and Democrats. This agreement blocked armed guards (generally off-duty law enforcement officers hired by Republicans) who harassed and blocked voters at the polls, often voters of color. It was overturned by a recently appointed Federal judge in 2018. The Republicans have hired 50,000 “poll observers” who will certainly harass voters in Democratic areas.
The completely legal reason why Republicans may vote in greater numbers than Democrats this election
When we started the Flip 2020 project, which is designed to help switch control of the US Senate to the Democrats, we thought we would embrace the formula we used in Florida in 2018. We would bring out-of-state activists to a key election state, train them how to canvass, and house and feed them in the run-up to the election.
A key piece of this successful strategy was finding an existing canvass operation which would pay our folks and provide critical canvass infrastructure like political materials, well-designed canvassing turf (so we did not waste time going to places where they were not going to consider our candidates and referendum) and access to the all important MiniVAN system which provides information on voters for canvassers so we arrive at the door informed and knowing who we are looking for.
Soon after we started searching for the right canvass group to work with, several canvassers working with the Progressive Turnout Project (PTP – a progressive canvassing organization) were infected with the novel coronavirus. This kicked off a discussion in democratic canvassing groups about whether or not door-to-door canvassing was safe, not just for the folks at home but those working in the field. As a result, all of the Democrat-leaning national canvasses shuttered their door-to-door efforts. This included Working America (AFL), the largest service workers union (SEIU), the Progressive Turnout Project, as well as the Biden Campaign itself.
The president’s reelection campaign continued to canvass door-to-door, and knocks on a million doors each week. It’s why the president might still get re-elected.
Many canvass campaigns target “lazy voters”, those who are known to be registered to your party but do not reliably vote. Canvassers can explain how they can qualify for absentee ballots (oh yes, despite the president’s protests, his field staff is absolutely encouraging people to vote by mail if they don’t want to go to the polls), get voters rides to the polls if they want, and remind them how important the election is.
What PTPs research shows is that voters who have face-to-face contact with a canvasser are 10.4% more likely to actually vote. The most optimistic numbers for social media, texting, and phone banked voters is a 3% increase in voting, several studies show these “air game” techniques are markedly less effective than that. In a close race, increasing turnout by 10% on your side means winning instead of losing.
What is especially insidious about this situation is it will be largely invisible in polling. The canvasser coming to your door is not changing your mind, they are increasing the chances you will vote. So when the pollster calls, they likely get the same answer they would have got before the canvasser’s influence, but what they don’t know is the canvasser has worked with the voter to get their absentee ballot, has worked with the voter to insure they know where their polling place is, has helped the voter organize transportation to the polling place and has reminded the voter to vote early so that their vote is counted. What the pollster does not know is the canvasser has made the voter more effective and more likely to actually vote. If you review the criteria for pollsters making the determination that someone is a “likely voter,” most of these are canvass effects invisible.
So let’s recap
- The postal system has been and continues to be crippled
- 50,000 poll watchers will depress the POC and/or democratic vote
- Over $20 million has been budgeted just to start lawsuits across the country
- Over 10 million people in the most critical states will be canvassed and perhaps 1 million votes will come out of this
What can you do? Well, the Flip 2020 project is doing a tiny amount of door to door, and instead we are focusing on key Senate battleground states and doing covid compliant street theater, tabling, literature drops, and political actions to get the word out and bring the progressive vote in. You can volunteer to help us and/or generously donate at www.flip2020.org or at our GoFundMe.