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In Wisconsin's Recall Elections, A Test Of The Tech-Enabled People-Powered Campaign

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, June 5 2012

The President may not be appearing in person to campaign alongside Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the final few hours before the recall elections on Tuesday in Wisconsin, but his campaign, as well as the Democratic National Committee and many other outside groups are lending a helping hand both online and off.

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign rolled out an online tool on Saturday that enables supporters anywhere in the nation to call Wisconsin residents to identify supporters of the Democratic candidates in the Tuesday recall elections. The tool, which contains voter information and a voter-ID call script, is part of the campaign's new Dashboard system.

"When you reach a voter on the phone, ask them who they plan on supporting on Election Day," read the instructions to campaign volunteers who sign up online to make the calls. "Once you have confirmed their support, you will talk to them about their plan to vote on Election Day. Helping a voter make plans to vote on Election Day is a proven method and best practice to make sure we turn out the votes we need. You will help them think about when they’re going to vote and how they’re going to get there."

The Obama campaign is also promoting a website with election-day information for Wisconsin voters.

The AFL-CIO's political action committee Workers' Voice is using software from a New York City startup called Amicus to enable its members to use Facebook to call and persuade their "friends and neighbors" who are registered voters to go out and vote. Like the Obama campaign's Dashboard, the tool logs the calls volunteers have made, friends found and awards them for the actions they've undertaken.

These online tools are part of a larger campaign by union groups and the Wisconsin Democratic party to organize volunteers, who fanned out over the weekend to knock on doors and make calls to voters.

In a blog post, The Washington Post notes that Tuesday's outcome could be an interesting indicator of the effectiveness of on-the-ground orgnizing versus the Republicans' money on the television airwaves.

But the reality is that the Republicans themselves have also engaged in a ferocious ground game and online organizing effort, which we documented a couple of weeks ago.

"This is the largest grassroots campaign we've ever had," the Wisconsin Republican Party's spokesman Ben Sparks told me at the time.

The turnout on Tuesday is expected to be high: Wisconsin's Government Accountability Board predicts that between 60 and 65 percent of the voting age population (2.6 to 2.8 million people) will cast regular and absentee ballots on Tuesday. This rate is a higher turnout than the 2010 general election that first put Walker in place as Governor, but not as high as the 69.2 percent turnout in the 2008 Presidential election.

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