How to Win an Election
At the end of the day, in this case, Tuesday, November 4th, you win elections by getting more of your supporters to go to the polls and get their votes counted than your opponent does. Although there are many different ways of reaching that goal, they all boil down to either getting more of your supporters’ votes counted, or getting less of your opponents supporters’ votes counted.
Of course to vote, you must be registered, so you may want to get as many of your voters registered, or challenge the registration of as many of your opponents supporters as possible. This year has seen massive voter registration drives, and the organizations that have run these drives are now trying to get the newly registered voters out to vote.
In areas where voters do not often make it to the polls, it is important to call through lists of all your likely supporters on election day to make sure they get out to vote.
Beyond that, you need to have a message that inspires your supporters to get out and vote. The Obama campaign has done a good job of this. They have a video which captures this well:
The newswires are picking up the stories. The 109 year old daughter of a slave voting for Obama. The stories of elderly black people who never voted because they didn’t feel safe voting or feared that their vote would not be counted, but who are voting for the first times in their lives for Sen. Obama.
This takes us to the other side of winning an election. If you can’t motivate enough supporters to get out and vote, you can try to dissuade your opponent’s supporters from getting out and voting. This is one of the reasons negative advertising is effective. It isn’t because you will change your opponent’s supporters into your supporters. It is enough to get them discouraged, to get them to think that all politicians are the same, and simply not to vote.
However, for some people, even that is not enough. Some people attempt to try and suppress voting through intimidation. Of course, this is against the law. A recent press release from Project Vote sums it up this way
Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 states that no person “ whether acting under color of law or otherwise,” shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce any individual for voting or attempting to vote, or for attempting to assist others to vote.
They go on to talk about the manufactured hysteria about voter fraud to “goad law-enforcement into intimidation and politically motivated investigations into eligible voters” How effective are these efforts? Repeatedly, they are being turned back by the courts. The Greene County Ohio Sheriff Gene Fischer had sought voter registration information on 302 new voters. The Dayton Daily News quotes Ellis Jacobs of the nonpartisan Miami Valley Voter Protection Coalition saying, "What the sheriff was doing was not investigating voter fraud, but voter intimidation". It is unclear if charges will be pursued.
It is a different story in New Mexico. The RNC General Counsel has been challenged to come up with a single case where a fraudulent vote was cast because of voter registration fraud. He has not been able to come up with any cases.
However, the New Mexico Republican Party came out with a story in the middle of October claiming that 28 people voted fraudulently in the June Primary. They listed the names of ten people then claimed had voted illegally. ACORN has contacted all of them, and found that the voters were properly registered.
Now, three different organizations have brought suits against Republicans in New Mexico. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit on Monday in Federal Court on behalf of two Hispanic women who felt they were being harassed when a private investigator, Al Romero came to their houses investigating the case. Romero had been hired by Pat Rogers, who advises the New Mexico Republican Party. Rogers is also named in the lawsuit.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a related suit in state district court. Peter Simmons, the executive director for the ACLU claims that the party obtained unauthorized access to voters’ private information.
In Pennsylvania, the Republican Party had requested a preliminary injunction ordering ACORN to turn over a list of 140,000 voters it had registered in the state. The court ruled, however, that the petitioners failed to convince the court that they would prevail on the merits of the case.
In many ways, it all boils down to two key emotions, hope and fear. You can use hope to get your supporters to the polls in record numbers, or you can use fear to try and keep your opponent’s supporters away from the polls. Fortunately for our democracy, trying to scare voters away from the polls is illegal and the courts are starting to crack down on it. Let us hope that we see record voter turnout this year.