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Cover 07/24/2013

The Hunt for Blue November: Why Battleground Texas Needs White Women

Photo: Callie Enlow, License: N/A

Callie Enlow

Over 75 people turned out for Battleground Texas’ latest San Antonio voter registration training

Photo: SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY, License: N/A

SOURCE: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS. *ESTIMATES BASED OFF TABULATION AND EXTRAPOLATION OF CHANGE IN ELEGIBLE VOTERS FOUND IN 2008 AND 2011 AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY


That’s why, in order to accelerate the demographic slide into blue territory, the Democrats will have to both peel off white support from the Republicans and mobilize whites who currently do not vote—in part because of the perception of futility of voting Dem in Texas. Fortunately for BGTX, the hard swerve to the right by the current Republican Party has left the political center wide open for recruitment of moderate white voters, all the more so for females incensed by the recent Republican-led restrictions on their reproductive rights.

Secret Code

Whereas voter turnout declined nationally in the 2012 presidential election versus the 2008 contest, it rose marginally in the nine swing states. Out of those states, the Obama For America campaign organization pocketed eight. Tactically, it was one of the most effective executions of a ground game in any U.S. election. Led by former national field director for that campaign, Battleground Texas employs the OFA handbook: traditional grassroots organizing backed by a full-court press on the digital side.

In most places local chapters of the Democratic Party share infrastructure. The Bexar County Democratic Party appointed Precinct Chair Emil Hunziker as the BGTX liaison, and also set aside office space for such operational needs as phone-banking. The BCDP, while continuing to retain its own grassroots capability, offers local logistical support and plugged BGTX into the local network of Democratic Party clubs.

Out of Austin, a lean BGTX managerial team recruits “fellows” who pledge a certain number of hours per week and attend a boot camp. Each fellow coordinates a team of regular volunteers back in their neighborhood. In the organization’s first four months, it recruited and trained over 2,500 deputy voter registrars across the state and 200 summer fellows all across Texas, with over a dozen in San Antonio. Following the OFA “snowflake” model, these volunteers participate in voter registration drives at events, through phone banks and by door-to-door canvassing. Voter registration is dual purpose: It elevates the number of registered voters, and information on the voter-registration card is harvested for a master database.

It’s too early to know what kind of impact the fieldwork is having, but voter registration is climbing steeply. More than 800,000 new Texas voters registered in the eight-month period stretching from the last presidential elections through the end of June, a whopping 64-percent increase from the comparable period after the previous vote, according to data from the Texas Secretary of State.

On the cyber side, BGTX works the same digital formula developed for the Obama 2012 campaign: sophisticated data mining techniques, micro-targeting strategies and massive usage of social media and email. Facebook landing pages, Tweet barrages and a steady stream of finely tuned email messages sweep up new volunteers and, especially, sponge up donations. In the first four months of operation, the BGTX Web page had rung up more than $1 million via donations, or 96 percent of the total take of $1.1 million. Seventy-nine percent of donations came from inside Texas and the median donation size of more than 3,500 payments was $25.

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