When I dabbled in local politics near my hometown in southern Washington State, I was shocked by how poor Democratic organizations' voter databases were. As a 22-year-old kid with decent data skills, I was given a lot of access to local targeting systems. I saw up close how little Dems knew about their people, and how bad the systems were for getting even that meager knowledge into the hands of campaign volunteers.
But I figured things must have changed over the years. Hadn't we seen Howard Dean and Barack Obama ride to victory on digital horses?
At least in Nevada, according to a report from Natasha Vargas-Cooper at The Awl, Democrats still don't have competitive get-out-the-vote systems. They still record GOTV actions on paper. (I saw the same thing in San Francisco in '08.) Meanwhile, Republican Sharron Angle's campaign has an autodialing system that keeps volunteers on task dialing clean numbers. This was known as computerization when many businesses made this switch -- 20 years ago!
Vargas-Cooper on the ground:
If there's anything that could save Harry Reid from getting ousted by Sharron Angle on Tuesday, it would be his campaign's ability to run a competitive ground game: tight coordination of precinct canvassing, disciplined phone banking, targeted literature distribution, quality control over hundreds of volunteers and--above all--clean, up-to-date voter lists.
Based on what I saw yesterday at Democratic Party headquarters in Las Vegas, it's not happening for Harry Reid.
Here is how Sharron Angle's field campaign works. Their telephones link up to a Republican voter database. Once a phonebanker has made a contact, she punches a number on the keypad to report whether the person has voted already, how they intend to vote, whether it's a wrong number or a hang-up. This updates the database in real time. After you disconnect, the phone autodials a new number. In one hour at Angle HQ, I made 87 phone calls.
If I talked to someone who already voted or who told me to "suck off" (true story!), I pressed a button and they were removed from the bank. The Reid campaign tracks phonebank results by hand. On paper.
Read the full story at The Awl.