U.S. Presidential Elections 2016: At the Intersection of Politics and Technology

Insight into campaigning, voter mobilization, and data

As part of our Task Force on the 2016 Presidential Elections, PD Washington is excited to share recent educational activities that have provided a platform for members, sympathizers, and others within the Italian and Italian-American community to witness a first-hand glimpse of how Americans campaign in the U.S. These experiences have so far included phone banking sessions with teams of both Democratic Party candidates: Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders.

Phone banking session

Phone banking session with PD Washington

During the month of February 2016, PD members attended sessions to learn about how political campaigns in the U.S. organize and mobilize registered voters. February marked the beginning of the Democratic and Republican primaries.  Ivana Brancaccio, a member of the PD Washington Secretariat responsible for Outreach and PR, has an extensive background in U.S. politics. Ivana worked on multiple campaigns in Nevada and, most recently, on Capitol Hill as Director of Operations for two freshman members of Congress. Ivana led phone banking parties for each respective campaign, providing an in-depth analysis to each candidate’s approach to contacting voters, which include sophisticated systems used online to engage with voters. The session showed members best practices for voter engagement and mobilization – an effort that PD hopes to continue exploring and sharing with our counterparts in Italy.

phone banking

Obama reaching out to Democrat voters during the 2012 presidential campaign

“Each campaign provides a list for us to call,” said Ivana, while logging into an online profile with Votebuilder, an online database company. Each member was instructed to bring their cell phone and computer to access the call list on Votebuilder’s website. “As you can see, both candidates are using auto-dialers, machines used to automatically dial phone numbers of voters who are registered.” The introduction of auto-dialers, and other machine operated messaging systems, has become widely popular on the campaign trail over the last few campaign cycles, and was particularly used during Barack Obama’s second campaign (see picture). Members voiced their enthusiasm, explaining that such an easy-to-use system would go a long way in helping to mobilize voters in Italy. “The objective of calls is simple. We are not going to be persuading voters to vote for one candidate over another. We are simply calling voters to make sure they know where and when to vote for the caucus this weekend.”

One big takeaway from making the calls was understanding the value behind providing registered voters with their polling information. Ivana explained that part of the voter mobilization strategy is to make contact with voters registered as Democrats to ensure that they actually turn out to vote. “Democrats win when we turn out to vote. Republicans don’t have that issue – they are predictable voters and do not have the same issues that Democrats have with voter turnout.” Furthermore, the higher the contact rate, the better outcome for a democratic win. This helps to explain why the introduction of auto-dialers, SMS messaging, and robo-calls and automated messaging has helped Democrats get out the vote.

For more information about the phone banking sessions, please contact Ivana Brancaccio at ivana.brancaccio@gmail.com. Also, check out photos from the session here, and follow us on twitter @PD_WAS #quidc for live updates.


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