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Here’s an offer you shouldn’t refuse:

To Concerned Democrats:

This note asks for your help on February 5.  We need volunteers who are registered voters in St. Louis County .  These volunteers will go to polling places on February 5 and record which party’s ballot each voter asks for.  This information will be entered into the Missouri Democratic Party’s VAN (Voter Activation Network).  It will be invaluable to all Democratic candidates in the fall campaigns, because it will help them target each of their voter contacts — sometimes to independents, sometimes to Strong Democrats, sometimes to Leaning Republicans, etc.  This targeting is essential for a candidate’s message to be delivered effectively, especially when time and money are limited.

Canvassing and phone-calling are the usual methods for gathering voter preferences and entering them in the VAN.  These efforts are critical and will certainly continue from now right on through November 3.  However, a golden opportunity is available to us right now, on February 5 — if we have enough volunteers to take advantage of it.  Election rules allow us to place a “poll challenger” at every polling place.  Poll Challengers don’t “challenge” anyone, at least not in this case.  Instead, on voter lists provided to them, they simply record which party’s ballot, Democrat or Republican, each voter requests.  That’s it.  When the polls close, the completed lists will go to someone who will enter the data in the VAN.

February 5 voter preference information will be less refined than the information that’s captured in a canvass or phone call.  It won’t distinguish between Strong Democrats and Leaning Democrats, and it won’t identify voters who typically vote in one party but in this election are crossing over to vote for the other party’s candidate.  (The latter is less likely in this election because of hot contests in both parties.)  However, these shortcomings are far outweighed by the sheer efficiency of gathering voter preference data at the polls.  In one day we can gather information that would otherwise require hundreds of hours of canvassing or phone calling.  It will make easier everything else we do.  It will be an enormous contribution to the Democrats’ cause.

If you can help, please email or call, as soon as possible, with the following information (contact information is at the bottom of this note):

your name

your address

your polling place (if you know it)

your cell phone number (if you have one)

hours you can work (The polls are open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.  The busiest times are 6-10 am and 4-7 pm, but we can use volunteers any time.)

We will try to place you at your polling place or a polling place near your home.  However, unless you say otherwise, we may place you at another polling place, where we need volunteers.  The high priority polling places will be those with a large number of registered voters for whom we don’t already have party preference information.  

Your name, address, and the polling place to which we assign you will go to the St. Louis County Board of Elections, which will prepare a Certification of Challenger document for each volunteer.  We will get this document into your hands before Feb. 5, along with a voter list for your polling place and guidelines about what you can and can’t do as a poll challenger, and a phone number to call if you run into any problems.  

Volunteers can bring their own chairs if they wish, and lunch and something to drink if they wish, and a good book for the down times.  Bring a cell phone if you have one.

We need to know as soon as possible if you can volunteer.  The Board of Elections requires this information no later than next Wednesday, January 30.  Before then, we have to pull the information together into an acceptable form and get it to the Board.  This means we need to hear from you by tomorrow, if not today.  Certification of Challenger documents may not be available until very close to the election, so there is a good chance we will be delivering them to your homes personally.  We will keep you posted by email.

Thank you!  This effort is also going on in St. Charles and Franklin Counties , and perhaps elsewhere.  Ideally it would have gotten under way sooner, but here we are, and with your help we will try to make it happen.

Ben

Ben Sandler

ben_sandler@wustl.edu