The Party of Non-Voters--Why Our Election Day Volunteering Matters More Than Ever

The Pew
Research Center
just released an
immensely valuable poll
, contrasting those who intend to vote this round,
with those who will likely stay home. Among all adults the Democrats or those
who leaned Democrat had a 50 to 39 margin, and Obama had a three point plus in
job approval. But among those likely to head to the polls, Republicans were up
four points. The difference was among non-voters, where the Democrats led by a
staggering 24 points, except that these people were likely to stay home. They
were overwhelmingly younger and poorer, less white, the core of the base that
carried Obama and the Democrats to victory just two year ago. They approved of
the job Obama was doing by 16 points, so this wasn't a progressive
backlash. They just didn't feel the urgency of turning out, or they hadn't
been asked enough to do so. Another
Pew survey
documented what was actually a one point Democratic preference
among voters overall. But this was dwarfed by exceptionally high rates of
Republican participation, and Democrats who were far more disengaged.

That's the picture. It's bad news for the
Democrats and bad news for the country, given the degree of the current
Republican detachment
from reality
. But it doesn't have to be the final verdict, precisely
because these are people who would vote Democrat if they only got to the polls,
which means it's up to the rest of us to convince them. We don't
have to change their minds. We just have to get them to participate. Thirty
percent of voters who lean Democratic have
received live phone calls
, which means seventy percent have not. The
Democratic campaigns have the coordinated voter files, so reaching most people
is doable. The question is whether there will be enough volunteers to complete
the task. That's where we come in, whether we can spend an hour or all
day. You can call from anywhere,
simply by registering and logging in. You don't need to even leave your
home. Or if you do want to participate in the final door-to-door push, that can
be even more helpful. But the challenge is do to something, knowing that it
could tip the difference in race after vulnerable race.

Six years ago, as
I've written
, I spent election day knocking on doors in Washington State and turned out three additional
voters. One had forgotten about the election. Another needed a ride. A third
didn't know how to submit his absentee ballot. My candidate won the
governor's race by 133 votes, over a right-wing Republican who's
now running neck and neck with the once seemingly unbeatable Senator Patty
Murray. I didn't get those votes by any particular eloquence or skill,
just by showing up. Any other volunteer would have had the same results. But
had I and 50 other volunteers stayed home that day, we'd have lost. The
stakes are as high or higher today, and the outcome in race after close race
could still depend on what we do. Whether we step up or not is up to us.

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