- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2014

Political campaigns have become so good at tracking that they can tell whether you’ve turned out to vote — and can stop sending you ads or emails on Election Day once they know they’ve gotten you.

Some campaigns will be updating their data in real time Tuesday, which will allow them to go only after voters whom they have reason to think are supporters but haven’t yet shown up at the polls, said Stu Trevelyan, CEO of NGP VAN, a digital technology firm for Democratic campaigns.

“It’s a pretty big improvement in capacity, because if you end up by 2 p.m. having struck a third of [the] list, which is approximately what people are seeing, that means the whole [get-out-the-vote effort] on Election Day is 25 percent more efficient,” he said.

With tight elections in key Senate races across the country, both Democrats and Republicans are searching for a final edge in their get-out-the-vote operations. That battle is increasingly playing out digitally as campaigns try to make it easier for their supporters to get to the polls and try to do a more efficient job of deciding whom to give second and third reminders.

Supporters who have given their email to a campaign will get an email reminder to vote, if they haven’t already, Tuesday morning, then follow-up emails encouraging them to volunteer to get others to the polls, Mr. Trevelyan said. Those who haven’t directly connected with a campaign will see ads around the Internet in banners or on Facebook encouraging them to vote and helping them get information, like what time polls close in their state.

Many campaigns have put Google Maps on their websites, allowing people to type in their home address and instantly get directions to their polling place. Matthew Dybwad, co-founder of CRAFT | Media/Digital, said that’s especially important as younger people, who already expect Google to provide instant answers on everything, become old enough to vote.

INTERACTIVE: 2014 Election Center

“We’ve moved voting into that same category of information at your fingertips,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about making it convenient for people, because if it’s not convenient, they won’t do it.”

Smartphones have transformed much of the election experience, from voting to learning about the candidates in the first place. A new Pew Research Internet Project poll released Monday found more than a quarter of voters used a cellphone to track political news during the 2014 election.

For campaigns, meanwhile, a major issue is trying not to waste money on broad appeals but instead to target specific voters for messages. Campaigns have become so good that they can figure out which user is logged into a shared computer and target that person specifically.

On Election Day, the goal is to spend money only going after those people who haven’t yet made it to the polls.

Almost all Democratic campaigns use the software developed by NGP VAN, which means the information is shared. If someone from a Senate campaign checks off the name, that person will no longer be targeted with ads from any Democratic campaign in the state, Mr. Trevelyan said.

Republicans haven’t yet reached this type of data sharing among campaigns and use several different programs to track voters, Mr. Trevelyan said.

Mr. Dybwad said the campaigns his company manages are able to exclude voters from advertisements on Election Day only in some states. All campaigns, however, can stop targeting those who vote early — a number he said is increasing every cycle.

Another digital effort to make voting as easy as possible: absentee ballots that come with a voter’s personal information already filled out. Campaigns hope the time savings make people more likely to mail the ballot back, said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of Targeted Victory, an audience-driven technology company that helps conservative candidates and causes.

Campaigns keep track of who has requested an absentee ballot and can then email voters to remind them to print and mail in their forms.

“We’ve taken out as many steps as possible to make it as easy to possible for someone to be able to vote,” Mr. Moffatt said.

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