The Turnout Game

I’ll never forget watching Mary Matalin, a George H.W. Bush operative, on television on Election Day 1992 in the late afternoon or early evening, saying that Bush was sailing toward reelection, with postivie GOP turnout being reported in key areas. She said this with a straight face, though every political professional in Washington and elsewhere already had access to the exit polls showing a Bill Clinton victory. Matalin knew that her guy was toast, but she was soldiering on. Which is what political ops do on E-Day. One way they do that is hyping turnout indicators that are—big shocker—favorable to their side. Consequently, the email I just received from the Democratic Party is not surprising. It notes:

The Ohio Democratic Party reports that they’ve already exceeded the number of volunteers they had hoped to deploy for Election Day GOTV activities.

   * In last 3 Days alone Ohio Democratic volunteers filled more than 9,000 volunteer shifts, made 2.1 million calls and knocked n nearly 400,000 doors

   * In the Democratic stronghold of Mahoning County, turnout for the last day of Early Voting surprised even Board of Election Director Tom McCabe, who said “We had lines all day long, 40 people deep at times. It’s amazing. It was our busiest day yet for voting at the counter.”

   * Students at universities across Ohio did literature drops until 1:00 am and then woke up at 5:00 am to begin their door-hanger shifts.

It also says:

* There was “a late Democratic surge in early voting in Florida, particularly among AfricanAmericans.”

* “Poll workers are reporting “shocking” turnout in Democratic Strongholds in the Lehigh Valley” in Pennsylvania.

* “Dozens of students launched canvasses and ‘dorm storms’ from the Indiana University student union in Bloomington, where Democrats already lead in early voting.”

* “Election judges are reporting long lines, greater than expected turnout in Dem stronghold Prince George’s County” in Maryland.

So much good news? In the intelligence field, they call this “cherry-picking.” It’s what pols do before it’s time to count the pits.

UPDATE: A new DNC email reports:

   * A disproportionately high number of  Cook County voters cast early vote ballots—44.2% of early vote ballots cast statewide came from this county despite representing only 38.5% of all registered voters in Illinois.
   * Election judges in St. Louis say lines this am as long as 2008 in St. Louis:
   * Strongly democratic South Bend Indiana is seeing very high voting turnout
   * Reports in from Pittsburgh. High volunteer turn out and lots of folks out on the doors now:
   * In Philadelphia, local election officials are reporting strong turnout for an off-year election:
   * 45 plus minute waits reported in heavily African American area of DeKalb County in the metro Atlanta.  Delays not caused by anything at polls, but rather people in line.
   * Long lines in Bridgeport, a key community for many of the competitive races in CT:
   * We’re getting a report that a parking lot at a polling station is so full, people are having to driving home and walking to the polls. No irregularities have been reported, just high turnout in the Garden State.  
   * There are several reports of big turnout in urban areas across North Carolina. Voters and elections officials report a steady turnout at the polls Tuesday morning on a day that some political experts say could be turf-changing for the country.

Another DNC update:

   * In the first two hours of calling, Dem volunteers have made 246,343 phone calls to targeted voters – that’s a blistering 2,052 calls per MINUTE or 34 calls per SECOND.
   * More than 1,550 canvassers are now going door-to-door through our targeted communities, making sure that these voters cast their ballots today for Democrats.
   * In the Lehigh Valley, election officials say they’ve seen three times the number of voters they’re used to at this time of the day:
   * According to NBC Philly, reports from around the state indicate that voter turnout is higher than expected:
   * Voters are reporting that there is heavy turnout in voting locations in the Chicago and the suburbs– even before 7:00 AM:
   *Turnout in Democratic heavy Louisville is higher than expected according to local elections officials. VIDEO:


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  • David Corn

    David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, Showdown, Hubris (with Isikoff), and The Lies of George W. Bush, as well as the e-book, 47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter and Facebook.