The ballot isn’t just the symbol of democracy – it is democracy. It is the very instrument of self-governance. The ballot itself is the fundamental building block of our republic. Upon it we direct the future of not just our hometown, but our very nation.
So, isn’t it a little odd that in Colorado we fling these sacred ballots through the mail like King Soopers coupons and American Furniture Warehouse ads? I suppose it is a little impractical to expect an armored Brinks truck to come to my home and hand-deliver my ballot. But then again, my pizza is hand-delivered.
Colorado is one of only three states that run their elections with all-mail ballots. The other two are the west coast progressive strongholds of Washington and Oregon. And by 2020 all counties in California will have the option to go all-mail. So, between this and Jared Polis’s goal of 100% renewable energy five years sooner than California’s unreachable goal, we’re out-Californicating California. Go team.
Colorado mandated all-mail ballots the last time the Democrats controlled both the state house and senate, 2013. And it fundamentally changed electioneering, giving an advantage to the team that is more tech-savvy and with the most foot-soldiers to chase voters (that’s the Left by the way). Here’s how.
We used to have an election day, a 12-hour period for civically minded folks to get to their neighborhood polling place and exercise their voice. Voting was for those with just the tiniest bit of motivation. Political machines had only 12 hours to get “their people” physically to the polls. We no longer have election day. We have election month, some three weeks to pressure the voters we think will vote our way to merely lick a stamp.
Two things you might not realize about our “election month:” One, Big Data tells us with surprising accuracy how you will vote. And two, we know if and when you voted, giving plenty of time to pressure you to vote, assuming big data tells us you’ll vote our way.
When you return your ballot, or vote at a polling center, the Secretary of State’s Office must announce to the world that you voted, not how you voted. This report is made available daily. Because of this, the sooner you vote, the sooner campaigns know to stop calling you and sending you junk mail. Why waste money?
Big Data companies know what you buy, what shows you watch, what you read, what websites you visit, what charities you support, what you drive. Everything. This data is collected, bought and sold to micro-target and sell stuff to you. But it sure comes in handy around election time. With this information, and massive computing power, sophisticated algorithms predict how you’ll vote. Campaigns know which voter is “their” voter. So, as the Secretary of State reports who individually has voted, a campaign knows if they are winning or losing, and by how many votes.
And if not enough of “their” voters have voted yet, then foot soldiers go to pressure you to return your ballot. They’ll use social media, calls, email, snail mail, even go knock on your door and offer to bring your ballot to the county clerk for you. Think of a dog on your leg.
But wait, there’s more!
Colorado is currently the only all-mail state that has same-day voter registration. This means that if, as they are counting their votes during “election month,” a campaign sees there still aren’t enough votes to win, they can go out and make brand new voters.
This is particularly effective in college towns where there are out-of-staters just hanging around for the harvesting. With only a utility bill, no photo ID required, a person can register to vote and vote at the same time. As was the case in Boulder recently, students can be whisked off campus and to the nearest polling center. (Good thing college students are so very conservative.)
So, here’s Colorado election system: Big Data identifies who you need to vote while “election month” allows for real-time scorekeeping and pinpoint vote chasing. Since most Republicans still have VCR’s flashing “12:00” on top of their TV’s, I expect it will take them some time to catch up to Democrats on the Big Data side, but it is happening.
The question is can the Right ever match the Left in the manpower to chase those micro-targeted votes. We’ll get an idea in a week and a half.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.