At the midway point of the season, the Red Sox delegation to the All-Star game is puny with no position players being selected and only Jon Lester and Koji Uehara representing the pitching staff. Considering the World Series win and the massive campaign put behind trying to get Red Sox on the team, this has got to be seen as a loss for the Red Sox marketing team because they failed to get their voters out. Let their loss be an early reminder to candidates: you need a get-out-the-vote plan.
Campaigns are a complicated recipe of fundraising, messaging, endorsements, media and public appearances, but the most important piece of any campaign is identifying and turning out supporters. I don’t care if you are running for President or county coroner, (surprisingly, coroner is an elected position in some areas), making sure that “your” voters cast their ballot is the most critical piece — and often most overlooked — part of a winning campaign. It’s so basic that it’s almost odd to talk about it, but I have spoken with several candidates who have lost close races and they were horrified to learn that people whose votes they were counting on never voted because they had a last minute trip or were simply not in their hometown during voting hours.
As lines at polling places have grown longer, voting has also become more of a time commitment, so even people who intend to vote might get discouraged by the sight of a long line out the door. While I could write a book about ways that Rhode Island could improve its voting processes — because we are almost twenty years behind other states — I’m just going to make one point today: you don’t need to wait until Election Day to vote.
Recent changes to Rhode Island voting laws have ushered in the era of “no excuse” absentee voting in Rhode Island. In the past, Rhode Island had some of the most strict absentee voting requirements in the country and only allowed absentee ballots only under a prescribed set of circumstances. Now any Rhode Island voter can request an absentee ballot and cast their vote without ever setting foot in a polling place.
There’s a bit of a process involved, but for people like me who know they want to vote, and have a good idea who they will vote for, it’s a great way to make sure that nothing gets in the way of casting a ballot. The process is pretty simple: fill out an application for a mail ballot at the Board of Canvassers (you can download the form online from the Secretary of State but it requires an original signature so a hard copy to your local Board of Canvassers is required). When you receive your mail ballot, follow the instructions to return it. Make sure that you mail it several days in advance of the election because the ballot has to be received by the Board of Elections in Providence by Election Day. The deadline to get an application for this year’s primary is August 19 and for the general election it is October 14.
As far as I can tell, the only downside to voting absentee is that you don’t get a nifty “I voted” sticker to wear for the rest of the day. But I’ll skip the sticker — and the line — this year because my ballot will already be cast when the polling places open. Maybe I’ll even write in Dustin Pedroia.
Cara Cromwell is a public affairs consultant with more than twenty years experience managing issues campaigns for corporations, non-profits, associations, coalitions and candidates on both sides of the aisle. Visit her blog, Straight Up The Middle, at straightupthemiddle.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter @cmcromwell.