Modern Election Technology Comes to Georgia

June 3, 2014 11:31 am

by Jon Richards · 20 comments

One of the reasons Republicans remain fairly confident about their chances in Georgia’s midterm election is that traditionally, Democratic turnout in midterms is lower than it is in presidential election years. The hope is that the lower Democratic turnout, combined with GOP frustration over the policies of the Obama administration and a strong desire to put the Senate under Republican control will be enough to get Governor Deal re-elected and put either Jack Kingston or David Perdue in the Senate..

That sounds nice. But, given technology advances, that model might no longer apply.

Starting with President Obama’s 2008 campaign and continuing through 2012, voter identification has become much more precise, mainly due to the use of cell phones and tablets to record detailed data on potential voters while conducting door-to-door canvassing. The data gleaned from these visits, combined with information that can be gotten and recorded through telephone and email contacts, helped the Obama campaign target and motivate people to get out the vote and win the election.

The Jason Carter campaign hopes to bring that same technology to Georgia, and use it to grow the Democratic voter base by what it estimates is 200,000 voters needed to beat Governor Deal in the midterm, according to a story in the Savannah Morning News:

Karl Douglass, Carter’s Yale-educated political director, promises to have the most robust set of data about Democrats the state has seen. The campaign, he said, has already hired a “super data-based” manager and plans to keep supporters engaged throughout the election.

“We’ve got to get voter turnout higher than it was in the last mid-term, but we think we can get it higher naturally. The question is can we get it high enough with Democratic turnout?” said Douglass, who was a 2008 Obama campaign regional political director.

“We’re going to engineer that in a lot of ways coordinating with campaign offices. We’re going to have people on the ground working, doing data collection and door-to-door, starting much sooner rather than later.”

For its part, the Georgia Republican Party doesn’t seem to be taking the challenge sitting down. New data gathering applications are starting to be rolled out as part of its “Victory Squad” project. And, the Georgia College Republicans are planning campus voter registration drives this fall.

Democrats have a head start on the GOP when it comes to using technology to engage voters and boost election day turnout. Whether that head start will be enough to boost Democratic turnout to the point where Jason Carter can pull off a win in what is still considered to be a red state is an open question.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 3, 2014 at 3:45 pm

“Whether that head start will be enough to boost Democratic turnout to the point where Jason Carter can pull off a win in what is still considered to be a red state is an open question.”

I guess that at this point that attempting to boost Democratic turnout to the point where a liberal candidate like Jason Carter could win in a state wholly dominated by conservative politics is not completely out of the realm of possibility given Georgia’s shifting demographic makeup which appears to be rapidly-changing in favor of the Democrats over the long-term.

But unless something goes terribly wrong for Governor Deal down the stretch, the chance of a left-leaning candidate like Jason Carter winning a statewide contest remains largely out of the realm of possibility at this point in time. That’s because it often takes many years if not decades to cultivate an environment where voters turnout for a political party on a consistent basis despite seemingly favorable demographical and/or technological trends.

Georgia Democrats should be under no illusions that they will be able to just go out and instantly mobilize 200,000-plus voters to show up at the polls this November in one of the absolute most reddest states in the union. As Georgia Republicans demonstrated in their relentless drive to change Georgia over from the (D) column to the (R) column, it takes many years (and even decades) to build the type of competitive and even dominating political organization that Georgia Democrats seemingly appear to want to build at the statewide level.

FranInAtlanta June 3, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Jason Carter’s granddad was way ahead of his time is collecting contributions from everyone in sight. Don’t underestimate what he can do.

xdog June 3, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Finding 200k voters does seem like a hard task but technology can make hard tasks manageable. If Carter is tapping into the latest version of software national donks used 2 years ago, that’s a big edge in identifying new donks and donk-leaning indies.

Two other points. First, I believe Georgia had a larger percentage of black than white voters in the last mid-term, providing a natural donk advantage and also a pool of non-registered or under-registered voters to focus on.

Second, Latinos are greatly pissed at continual goper efforts to scuttle immigration reform, the hispanic population in Georgia is the 10th largest of any state, and registered Latino voters have tripled since 2004, although still probably less than 2 percent of the total. Plenty of room to grow if you can get to them, and it looks as if the donks will have the tools to do so.

Finally, I see where Deal’s office has announced suspension of the scheduled increase in the motor fuel tax that was to go effect on July 1 because, Deal said, doing so will “help cut costs for families and keep us the No. 1 place in the nation for business.” Those are not the actions nor the comments of a man expecting to skate to reelection.

Scott65 June 3, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Jason Carter needs to worry as much about his message as he does voters. Up to now I wouldn’t say he has run the smartest campaign. He should be hammering Deal on the medicaid expansion. He should go to every single locality that has had a hospital closure and blame it on Deal (and in most cases its probably true). Putting all your eggs in the “education solves everything” basket is not a winner IMO…it might get some traction though, but Deal is not as vulnerable there. These are low information voters…you gotta inform them. The fact that almost all parts of the ACA are popular, but if you call it Obamacare its not, that gap is closing pretty quickly …explain that if its repealed…the popular things go away too. Sort of like the mess McConnell has twisted himself into…Kynect is very popular…obamacare isnt…and when people realize they are the same thing they dont particularly like being played. Deal runs the risk of looking like he is playing GA voters for fools (not too far from the truth in many cases) and lets see if Carter is smart enough to point it out where people can make the connection.

FranInAtlanta June 3, 2014 at 6:24 pm

http://www.naacp.org/news/entry/naacp-civic-engagement-campaign-announced-in-atlanta This says one million unregistered voters of color in Georgia and, somewhere else, I read 500K unregistered voters of color in Atlanta.
Georgia is often a donor state – meaning that, in the years where we are, we send more money to Washington than returns to Georgia. The states accepting the new Medicaid will make this permanently true unless we reconsider. Meanwhile, those who would be eligible for the new Medicaid get none of the subsidy to which those just above them in income are entitled. I am not sure we have done a wise thing – either for our state or our working poor.

Harry June 3, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Consider that economic non-contributors may consider moving to another state. Just saying.

FranInAtlanta June 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm

First time I’ve heard that. If I were in the no Medicaid/no subsidy group and had a choice, I would take the subsidy. Note that most in that group are working.

Harry June 3, 2014 at 9:02 pm

“Most”? Perhaps so. But if they’re taking government money then “most” of them are net economic non-contributors.

linuxfanatic June 3, 2014 at 9:15 pm

Sorry bud that is not reality. “Economic non-contributors” to you means people working service and low end retail jobs making less than $12 an hour. That is actually the majority of the workforce outside metro Atlanta, and a good chunk of the workforce within it. It is not so much that these people are not going to leave Georgia for high-welfare states like Oregon and Vermont over Obamacare (because if they were, they would have done it long ago) but the fact that if they did, our economy would tank. Deep south states like Georgia are disproportionately dependent on low wage jobs. They may not be “net economic contributors” in terms of the salary that they earn and the taxes that they (don’t) pay, but they do necessary work. If that work does not get done, then a whole lot more of us won’t be economic contributors either.

Harry June 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm

Problem is, we have far too many net non-contributors here. Plenty of them are unemployed or underemployed. We could stand to lose some. They would probably do better to move to a wealthier state.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 4, 2014 at 12:54 am

That’s the thing…Georgia is one of the wealthier states compared to many other states in the union….Which is why so many unemployed and underemployed people migrate to metro Atlanta from other parts of the country and the world.

There are also mega-cities like New York whose city government annually intentionally sends much of its homeless population to other cities (particularly Atlanta) to make way for the continuing gentrification of its inner-city areas by young professionals.

Basically, Georgia has become that ‘someplace else’ that many people come to from other parts of the country and the world….And there’s major transcontinental superhighways like Interstates 20, 75 and I-85 and the busiest airport on the planet to furnish the metro area with a continuous and seemingly nearly-endless supply of net non-contributors.

Welcome to the big-leagues as I’m afraid that growth is a package deal….Along with the net contributors and highly-talented overachievers come the net non-contributors and underachievers….That’s just the way it is in an explosively fast-growing state like Georgia.

Dave Bearse June 4, 2014 at 1:26 pm

Georgia among a small group of states whose federal taxes and federal expenditures in the state are within a few percent of neutral (though I’ll grant typically a couple percent donor). However you’re correct that refusing Medicaid expansion and Georgia’s discouraging use of Obamacare subsidies will tip the balance.

linuxfanatic June 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

LDIG:

For some reason the “reply” link to your post did not work. So I will do it down here. Georgia one of the reddest states in the nation? Nowhere close. Not with a 31% black population, or with large concentrations of white artsy/urban progressive types in Savannah, Athens, and metro Atlanta, or with a 9% Hispanic population that does not identify with whites and oft vote Republican like many Hispanics do in Texas and Florida (Georgia’s Hispanics are not as liberal as those in the far west and northeast, but generally lean Democrat). Also, I would bet that the rural whites are not as reliably Republican as many believe. The last 2 white Democrats to win statewide office, Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox, were from south Georgia, and Barrow is from that area also. The problem is the DPoG ignores them, caring more about LBGTQ issues and social welfare programs than jobs, education and infrastructure in the vast majority of the state. (I still remember Cynthia Tucker and the AJC editorializing AGAINST a lawsuit filed by rural Georgia school districts to get more education money from the state … they opposed it because it would have meant less money for Fulton-DeKalb. And the Dems trying to make hay over rural hospitals closing over the state’s anti-Obamacare stance is odious. Hospitals have been closing down there for decades and the Democrats haven’t done squat. The Dems don’t want Obamacare for rural Georgia, they want it for their ITP base.) Also, look at who Georgia elects, especially to statewide office. Very conservative types, whether Tea Party, small government or social conservative, do not get elected to governor or senator. They don’t even win very many Congress seats. Instead, you get middle of the road, center right, often former Democrat types like Perdue, Deal, Coverdell and Kingston … Isakson was long considered an outright moderate, not even center-right, until he made a show of moving to the right to win that GOP Senate primary. You know, Isakson, who was Cynthia Tucker’s favorite Republican, a Zell Miller appointee (before Miller also moved to the right) and was endorsed by Creative Loafing. A Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jim DeMint, Allen West, Tom Coburn, Jesse Helms type would never get elected in Georgia.

Georgia should hold onto their Republican (albeit not particularly conservative) winning coalition for the foreseeable future so long as they start running better candidates capable of winning white moderates and independents with their resume (and not by moving to the left, which would lose the GOP more voters from their base than they would gain from the middle). Unfortunately, some of the more intriguing GOP candidates lost down ballot elections the last 2 cycles, so they need to get out and recruit more compelling candidates fast.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 4, 2014 at 1:12 am

You make some good points, but with the Georgia electorate continuing to be dominated by Conservative voters for the time being, and with those dominant Conservative voters having elected Republicans to all statewide offices and supermajorities in the state legislature, Georgia is in fact one of the absolute most reddest states in the union at the moment. The state’s rapidly-changing demographics say that there’s a possibility that Georgia may not necessarily continue to be as ‘bright red’ of a state as it is currently, but for the time being Georgia remains one of the reddest states in the union.

Though, you make an excellent point that running many more appealing candidates could and likely would help the Georgia GOP to keep control of the state’s political scene that it has increasingly totally dominated for the last 12 years.

Chris Huttman June 4, 2014 at 1:59 am

Maybe when Georgia elects a Republican governor who didn’t start his career and get elected multiple times as a Democrat I’ll believe you. In the meantime, I assure you that Idaho/Wyoming/Utah just to name a few are far more Republican/conservative than we are.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 4, 2014 at 2:31 am

I don’t doubt that Western states like Idaho, Wyoming and Utah are thoroughly dominated by Republicans and Conservatives.

But with Georgia having just passed into law one of the largest expansions (if not the largest expansion) of Second Amendment rights in U.S. history and with Republicans totally dominating state government and statewide politics (Republicans hold all statewide offices and a supermajority of seats in the legislature), Georgia’s politics are pretty darned Conservative right now.

Georgia’s politics obviously may not necessarily always be the most-functional and the rapidly-changing demographics of Atlanta’s traditionally Republican-dominated outer suburbs signal that the state may not necessarily continue to be so thoroughly dominated by Republicans and Conservatives into the distant future. But for the time being and until events happen that prove otherwise, Georgia is about as red of a state as they come.

Dave Bearse June 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

“A Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jim DeMint, Allen West, Tom Coburn, Jesse Helms type would never get elected in Georgia.”

Paul Broun ring a bell?

Any of ‘em would as the R nominee and an I after their name, and could well be elected sans the I.

Brian Sebastian June 4, 2014 at 5:56 am

Jon, the content of this comment thread has me a bit worried.

I’m not sure that everyone ITT, or even a significant number of PP readers, truly understand what an Obama-esque data war entails.

“New data gathering applications” and “College… campus voter registration drives” really don’t even begin to scratch the surface.

The GOP’s in for a fight, and they damn well better come prepared.

northside101 June 4, 2014 at 2:21 pm

While we are on the subject of technology, anyone know why the voter registration data on the elections portion of the SOS website is so out of date? The county data is over 6 months old (Nov 2013) and the district data (registered voters by congressional, state legislative district) is a year and a half old (December 2012). You would think with a recent primary, there would be more current data online, among other things making it easier to gauge turnout on May 20.

Brian Sebastian June 6, 2014 at 10:03 am

Golly…

That really makes you wonder if there might be other ways to keep track of where voters are currently living…

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