You might remember my column from a few months back on Oct. 5, entitled “Turning rhetoric into action with results.” It focused on efforts of Democrats at both the county and state levels to more effectively garner grassroots support for Democratic candidates. Consider this column to be a sequel or follow-up to that earlier column.
On the topic of turnout and grassroots fundraising, I attended a precinct organization meeting several weeks ago attended by more than 100 precinct leaders, district liaisons, and area coordinators. The function was hosted by the Montgomery County Democratic Party. During this meeting, Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) presented the Montgomery County Democratic Party with a check for $60,000, representing grassroots fundraising at its finest.
As our other Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) often points out, grassroots fundraising primarily accomplishes two things. First, it makes the small donor feel more a part of the campaign process. Second, it causes the candidates to pay closer attention to the issues important to these small grassroots donors.
This is how it should be and this is at the core of how Democrats intend to reverse the current tide in elections at every level as we approach the 2018 midterms and the 2020 presidential elections. The importance of turning the tide cannot be underscored enough as the effort involves growing the grassroots in individual state legislative districts across the entire country to start taking back state houses as we approach the 2020 census and the accompanying redrawing of Congressional district lines in 2021.
Voter turnout is at the center of the strategy since even a slight uptick in voter turnout could have a drastic impact on voting results. There has been a steady downhill trend of voter turnout right here in Maryland.
In 2006, for example, 65 percent of Montgomery County Democrats voted. In 2014 that figure dropped to 45 percent of Montgomery County Democrats. The difference between 65 percent and 45 percent represents some 75,000 Montgomery County Democratic voters. Republican Governor Larry Hogan's margin of victory statewide was 65,000 votes.
To put it succinctly, if Montgomery County Democrats came to the polls in 2014 in the same numbers that they did in 2006 the results of the 2014 gubernatorial election could have had a drastically different result.
Turning voter turnout around, then, is the critical element of the overall strategy and increasing voter turnout by at least 15 percent is the primary goal of Democrats in the county and the state. The question, though, is how best to reach out to that grassroots constituency to do just that? “How” was at crux of this gathering.
The answer is basically hard work by rolling up their sleeves and knocking on doors, all doors. To date, the doors of several thousand constituents have been knocked on and several hundred individuals behind those doors participated in conversations to identify the issues most important to voters right here in Montgomery County.
So far, the results of these one-on-one discussions with voters revealed that healthcare is the number one concern of Montgomery County voters.
It is this information that is then conveyed to candidates AND office holders to allow them and their campaigns to focus on the issues which voters really care about and prioritized accordingly.
This approach benefits both the candidates AND the constituency and represents a winning combination for all.