With voting underway in more than 30 states, the Republican National Committee has begun a $60 million digital get-out-the-vote campaign that will harness social media, text messages, e-mails and other platforms to digitally chase voters.
The expansive effort leverages the vast data operation the party has built over the past three years and will involve quickly filling the newsfeeds, inboxes and text threads of potential voters with information on how to vote and reminders about key deadlines.
“We can target you every step of the way,” said Richard Walters, chief of staff of the RNC. “We know when you requested the ballot, and we know to continue following up with you until your ballot has been returned and until we can see it has been returned.”
The $60 million initiative will complement the operations of the Trump campaign’s digital team, which will primarily focus on running persuasion ads, according to officials at the RNC.
While a crucial part of the digital get-out-the-vote effort will be persuading Republican voters who have requested an absentee ballot to turn it in, possibly by mail, it is a message that runs counter to President Donald Trump’s frequent and baseless denunciations of mail ballots, which he called a “disaster” in the first presidential debate, suggesting without evidence that they would lead to a “rigged election.”
Trump has, however, sought to distinguish between mail-in ballots and absentee ballots by arguing, falsely, that the latter is less prone to fraud. (There are no meaningful differences between the two.) To counter any confusion, the RNC has identified which voters are likely to vote by mail, regardless of the public message, and are encouraging them to send in their ballots.
“Where it is effective, we’re absolutely pushing it, regardless of what the political narrative is,” said Walters of voting by mail.
The RNC campaign has recently run ads featuring members of the Trump family, including Donald Trump Jr. and Lara Trump, encouraging voters to return their ballots. The messaging for targeted text campaigns are similar. “In Florida, voting-by-mail absentee is the most secure way to ensure your Republican vote is counted this November,” one text from Lara Trump reads.
The $60 million investment is a marked jump for the party’s digital get-out-the-vote program, which it invested just $2.9 million in for the 2016 cycle.
“It’s a new priority from the GOP because typically this is not the type of money they would invest in that type of campaign,” said Filippo Trevisan, a professor of public communication at American University in Washington, D.C. “They’ve had get-out-the-vote efforts in the past but never to the level that we’re seeing.”