Here are some practical tips for running Virtual Elections/Conventions during Covid19 we’ve compiled after observing dozens of virtual conventions. If you’re interested in running a virtual election, check out QuickVote and reach out to us.
Sampling Voter’s Opinions During COVID-19
|How do voters feel about how Pres. Trump and Gov. Inslee have responded to Coronavirus? What do voters think about the closure of schools through the end of the year?|
During the past month, Voter Science conducted two robodial surveys of registered voters across Washington state to poll opinions on questions around the COVID crisis and the response of national and state leaders. A total of 2,643 voters responded to a poll taken March 29th and 1,801 voters responded to our poll taken April 13th. We asked a set of tracking questions in each poll to gauge approval of Pres. Donald Trump’s and Gov. Jay Inslee’s handling of the Coronavirus, and to find out what voters predictions were for how long life might be stuck in this “new normal.”
|In addition to those tracking questions, in our April 13th poll we asked for reactions on two topical issues: how well are schools meeting the needs of newly homebound students and are voters happy about the newly enacted and highly controversial K-12 sex ed law. In both cases, we found a population looking for better leadership.|
|For additional insights from this research, or information on how we can help you use research to know voters better, please email us at info@Voter-Science.com.|
Voter Science Collaborates with WSRP to Keep Party Business Moving During COVID-19
One month ago, the Washington State Republican Party realized that holding in-person legislative district caucus meetings and county conventions would not be possible. Yet, the election of delegates still needed to happen.
Voter Science engineers went to work quickly and in 7 days turned around a secure and “ready-for-primetime” tool to facilitate virtual balloting and delegate selection. The King County GOP was also instrumental in making sure our technology was run though its paces, and ran at least 10 mock elections in record time to run to iron out wrinkles before live elections began two weeks ago with counties reporting great success. More counties are scheduled to conduct their own delegate elections over the next few weeks.
The collaboration between Voter Science and the WSRP on the use of political technology amid the COVID crisis made news in The Wall Street Journal:
As Washington state reels from the coronavirus pandemic, its local Republican Party has a backup plan in case it isn’t possible for hundreds of people to gather in June to pick delegates to the Republican National Convention two months later.
The state’s “virtual” convention plan, which it is already employing for smaller, local meetings, could be a model for the two national political parties if the pandemic lingers and disrupts their massive gatherings scheduled for August.…
Washington Republican Party Chairman Caleb Heimlich said he realized by mid-March that hundreds of people couldn’t safely gather for local meetings to elect delegates for the state gathering, even though it had been delayed from mid-May to late June. He enlisted political tech startup Voter Science to quickly build a platform for voting, paired with Zoom videoconferencing for participants to interact…
Voter Science is proud to pitch in to keep the work of dedicated Republican activists going during this difficult election cycle. We’re committed to proving that we don’t need to make a choice between being safe and keeping our Republic functioning.
3 Things Voter-Science is doing to help during COVID
Here are some specific actions VS is taking to help during the COVID crisis.
 New tool for Remote Party Elections and Delegate Selections
Continuing to have a functioning political system through any crisis is of deep concern to us at Voter Science. Voter Science is working hand in hand with the state GOP and county parties to solve the challenge of facilitating caucus voting and election of party leadership at a time when in-person meetings are not possible.
While there are solid remote conferencing tools like Zoom, UberConference, GotoMeeting, and FreeConferenceCall, there aren’t affordable remote election tools that handle the unique challenges for remote balloting such as complex bylaws with multiples rounds of voting and district weighting.
VS developed an online ballot system, VS QuickVote that can be used by county and state conventions and similar organizations for doing remote elections. Quick Vote extends our previous tool for building recommendation pages (ie, SlateBuilder) with the ability to vote on those candidates in primary and general elections.
 Help grassroots influence impactful COVID decisions
Our government is making bold COVID decisions which are impacting our daily lives. People can use our free petition builder platform to organize on issues and build lists for grassroots development on issues and not just party affiliation.
For example, in Washington state there is controversy around Gov. Inslee’s decision NOT to include private sector construction workers as essential businesses thereby ordering them to stay at home, while many tax-funded government and union construction workers are still working. A free petition was started to raise awareness of the issue: “Construction Work Is Essential” which got over 9,000 signatures in a few days in just one legislative district (nearly 8% of the district population). This greatly helps identify the people impacted by this decision and help grassroots and candidates organize a response.
Any candidate’s first task should be testing the waters with an online petition. If there’s an issue impacting you or your community and you need a voice, start your own petition at https://PetitionBuilder.org
 Need for more affordable solutions, especially for local elections
As the country faces a global pandemic and unprecedented unemployment, political donations naturally decline. Political campaigns need to find a way to make do on a smaller budget. VS has a large set of free and affordable offerings for campaign and voter management. Contact us or visit https://Start.Voter-Science.com to get started. We also share the source for our assets at https://github.com/voter-science, and even expose free APIs to integrate with our mobile canvassing.
Voter Science was founded because we saw that there has always been a major tech gap in local races, many of which are nonpartisan but in which progressive or center-left candidates benefit from a rich ecosystem of tech resources and data. Voters will be watching how their local officials work in the community to communicate needs and impacts of COVID – some officials will fail the challenge.
Our hope is that by providing affordable, scalable tools to smaller campaigns that aren’t partisan, we can improve the caliber of local leadership to address challenges like this that we have to be prepared to handle in our new future normal.
A candidate’s first task: creating an online petition
As a new candidate, a great first task is to create an free online petition at https://PetitionBuilder.org and share it out.
An online petition lets you pick a topic and people can sign up with their name, zip code and email address. They can also leave comments and upvote on other comments – which is empowering to the signers.
An online petition is an opportunity to test the waters in March, not at the August primary. Specifically:
- Pick a meaningful topic – Avoid frustrated partisan rhetoric that only appeals to the base. Choose something that resonate with their community and motivates voters.
- Get community feedback – If nobody signs your petition, it gives you a pulse that perhaps the topic is not broadly important and you should focus elsewhere. Signers can also leave comments and upvote on a petition, so that’s another signal you can use.
- Exercise your influencer network –To really get traction, you’re going to have to do more than just share it once on Facebook. Roll up your sleeves and go to community meetings, meet with other people, and be seen as a leader on the topic in the community. This is hard work, but all essential skills you will need on the campaign to get votes.
The bottom line is if you can’t even get 100 signatures on a petition, you certainly won’t get 10,000 votes in August! For many, running an online petition is a great wakeup call – but early enough that they can do something about it.
As you get your signatures, you can monitor the statistics page to see things like view rates, signup rates, share rates. You can even see a heat map of where the signups are coming from.
Some practical next steps after you get signatures:
- Use screen shots from the stats pages to make followup posts promoting the petition.
- Update your petition’s description with new information.
- Use the stats to identify the biggest influences
- Contact petition signers with followup messages and action items. You can import the signers into your own mail list or contact them via PetitionBuilder.
- Match your signers back to the voter-database to determine other attributes such as legislative district, party score, voting history, or other demographics. Voter-Science can help with this.
Easy integration between your CRM and VS Canvasser
Voter-Science provides a free door-to-door canvassing app, and you can bring your own data and get started immediately at https://Start.Voter-Science.com
But for Developers, there’s also VoterScience API access that lets you can quickly add canvassing support to your existing app.
This is ideal for apps, such as CRMs or outreach platforms, that have a list of names. You can call an API to create a new canvassing sheet with those names, and then receive a webhook as the canvassing results are filled out. The general flow here would be:
- In your CRM app, add a button like “Export to Walklist” which takes a list from your app and passes it to the VS API. You’ll also specify a webhook to receive results and which users are allowed to access this sheet. Your app is then in full control of list management.
- Users can then open the walklist on the VS Canvasser app. They will log in via their email and are matched against permissions you provided in the first step.
- As users fill in canvassing results, VS will fire the webhook you provided in the first API call.
- Your app listens on a webhook and fills in results in your system. This could be adding tags, filling in fields, etc.
See https://github.com/Voter-Science/TrcLibNpm/wiki/Create-New-Sheets for API usage.
A few additional notes:
- This can also be used to integrate with an existing CRM. For example, we use this APIs to integrate between VS Canvasser and NationBuilder.
- Users for the canvassing can be separate from your CRM users. For example, you may have a few staff members that can access your CRM, but a totally separate field team for running canvassing.
- The VoterScience system also has a powerful data mashup engine that can merge in additional data sets or even provide geocoding.
So stop writing your own canvass apps and focus on more interesting problems!
3 takeaways from WA Presidential Primary
Here are some key takeaways from the Washington State 2020 presidential primary yesterday.
Voters were required to mark a party on their ballot and then Democrats could vote for the Democrat nominee (a race down to Biden vs. Bernie) while Republicans could vote for the Republican Nominee (Trump).
While everyone’s specific vote (ie, Biden vs. Bernie) is private, the list of who voted and their party preference on the ballot is public (Democrat vs. Republican) and maintained by the Secretary of State.
As our snapshot last night (midnight at Mar 10th) , there were 1.8 million ballots received (about 37% of the total voters) with the following split:
[Source: Secretary of State March 10th Election Results.]
We expect the absolute numbers to change as more ballots are received in the mail; but the percentages and trends will likely stay similar.
96% of voters successfully marked a party preference. Leading up to Tuesday, there was some controversy about the need to mark a party preference, but in practice, the overwhelming majority complied.
Leveraging a party score database
Voter-Science maintains a Party Identification database that associates each voter with a Party ID score. This database is used by hundreds of candidates across the state and has frequently predicted elections to 99%+ accuracy. (contact email@example.com to learn more about our database).
We can then join the ballot results with the party scores to gain additional insights. Here’s the pivot showing both party score (rows) and ballot marking (columns).
Voter-Science has a party score for over 90% of the voters.
- A “hard” voter is that party’s base and likely to vote straight party line.
- A “soft” voter likely identifies with a party but is still considered persuadable.
- The “Unknown” row is people that VS doesn’t yet have a party score for.
For example, this reads that 1.1 million ballots were marked Democrats, and of that 544k of those voters have voter-science party score of “soft democrat”. The boxes inline show the cross over votes.
Independents went 67.3% : 32.7% for a Democrat ballot over a Republican one. That could spell trouble for Republicans in November, or it may be because the Democrats still had an interesting choice on their ballot whereas Republicans just could vote for Trump.
What about cross-over voting?
Dedicated party voters stuck with their party ballot. Only 27k GOP and 10k democrats did cross over and vote on the other ballot. The 10k democrat voters may seem significant, but that’s only 0.58% of the total votes – a small enough number to be attribute to voter error in filling out their ballot. This won’t be an issue in November once there’s just a single general ballot.
But, there’s interesting cross-over from Soft Dem/GOP:
76k soft democrats (8.3% of total Dems) voted on an uncontested GOP ballot to support Trump. That’s 5% of the total vote, which could be an interesting sector if Republicans can identify and leverage them in November.
20.3% of total GOP voters crossed over to vote on the democrat ballot. That could be because the GOP ballot has just Trump, so these GOP may have weighed in on the more interesting Bernie/Biden debate.
- 96% of voters successfully marked a party preference
- Independents went 67.3% : 32.7% for a marked a Democrat ballot over a Republican one
- 20.3% of total soft GOP voters crossed over to vote on the democrat ballot. Only 8% of total soft Democrats
“Recommendation Pages” are a great way to advocate for a group of candidates or initiatives. This can be especially useful in down ticket races for local races – positions that often don’t get much attention but affect our daily lives.
You can use https://PetitionBuilder.org to create polished recommendation pages within minutes for free. These pages can then be shared around and you can continually edit them.
Here’s an example of a sample recommendation page for the Founding Fathers:
You can see other popular pages on the https://PetitionBuilder.org homepage.
Creating your first page
- Either got to https://PetitionBuilder.org and click “Create a recommendation page”, or you can create it directly from https://PetitionBuilder.org/slate/create . You’ll need to log in so that it can safely let you edit your page after you publish.
- Add information for each candidate. You can edit these later.
- Once you’ve create your page, you get a dedicated URL that you can share around. You’ll also see some share buttons to help you:
Quickly copying items
You can also copy items from other slates to your slate by touching the (+) button on the right.
This makes it easy for people to create their own personalized slates, and also lets multiple people collaborate together to build a larger slate.
Canvassing With Gestures
While the use of obscene gestures as part of any campaign communications strategy is to be discouraged, some gestures can be an intuitive and efficient means of data entry on mobile devices. So as we knock on doors, anything that helps us shift focus from our phones to our neighbors not only saves time and effort, but also promotes a more positive image in our communities.
Canvasser has always supported the swipe gesture to proceed to the next household or household member, but with the release last week of v1.6 for both Android and iOS, we’ve introduced support for a powerful new gesture: Shake.
To enable this feature, simply open up Settings from the main menu. The new Gestures section adds two new settings:
The first setting assigns an action to be initiated when a shake gesture is detected. This is disabled by default, but by tapping the control you can pick the option you’d like automatically entered into the Result field when your phone is shaken. For canvassing, that’s usually “No contact” or “Left literature”, but “No answer” might be more appropriate if you’re on the phone working through a call list to remind people to vote.
The second setting is to provide audible feedback when an action is triggered by gesture, which is done using the built-in text-to-speech capabilities of your phone. By default, this is enabled so that when you shake your phone you’ll immediately hear spoken feedback (e.g. “Left literature”) to indicate that the gesture was detected and Result field automatically filled. You can then simply swipe to move on to the next household.
Note that the volume of the audible feedback will be subject to both the global and app-specific volume settings on your phone. For more details on how to set these, click here for Android and here for iOS.
Shake gesture support will primarily be used from the household detail page, but with the v1.6.1 release we’ve added support for the voter detail page as well.
Of course, we’re just getting started with introducing more intuitive gestures to use with Canvasser that will help speed data entry when you’re out knocking on doors. Personally, I’ve knocked on over 30,000 doors during my two last campaigns and so I have some opinions on what improves my efficiency, but I’m always anxious to hear more suggestions from the field. If you have an idea for the next kick-ass new feature for Canvasser, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many votes will it take for the GOP to win the 2020 governor’s race in Washington State?
Washington State has been steadily growing, from 3.63 million voters in 2008 to a projected 4.45 million by 2020. Here’s how the historical trends have looked since 2008, and the projection going forward to 2020. At this rate, it will take 1.76 million votes to win.
GOP statewide candidates are averaging around 40%-45% in competitive races.
However, traditionally GOP issues have gotten past the 50% mark, notably charters schools and anti-tax measures.