“I think you may see 40 percent of the votes (in the June primary) coming early,” says Sen. Orrin Hatch’s campaign manager Dave Hansen.
“We’ll have a pretty good idea where we stand” before the June 26 in-person ballot casting, he says.
Hansen won’t predict the vote between Hatch and his GOP challenger, former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist.
All Hansen will say is that Hatch will win.
Of course, Liljenquist’s supporters say the Bountiful Republican will upset Hatch.
Hansen is known for his planning. And with Hatch’s millions of campaign dollars at his disposal, Hansen is pulling out the stops in the newly-formulated, turn-out-the-vote strategies.
In addition to the Hatch-Liljenquist race, state GOP leaders have been making their own push to get loyal Republican voters to sign up for Utah’s absentee balloting process.
Failing that, they, too, are trying to get voters to cast their ballots in early in-place voting, which starts today, Tuesday June 12.
You can find your early voting locations at the state Elections Office web site here.
There are any number of campaign strategy benefits to getting your voters to cast absentee or early voting ballots, says Hansen, who has made a career of managing and organizing top Republican races in Utah and throughout the West.
“We’ve been getting more people signed up for absentee balloting. We do that through phone calls.”
If the Hatch supporters – or people identified as likely Hatch supporters – agree over the phone to sign up for absentee ballots, the campaign will mail those applications out to the voters, said Hansen.
Who has ultimately signed up for absentee ballots is public information. So the campaign later checks with local county clerks and sees which supporters actually did request an absentee ballot.
But the effort doesn’t stop there. Follow-up calls are made to the voters reminding them to actually fill out their ballots (of course voting for Hatch) and mailing them back into to their clerks.
It’s also public information who has voted via absentee ballots. Once those votes are confirmed (and remember, this all happens days or weeks before the actual June 26 primary day), then those folks are scratched off of the master Hatch/supporter/voter list, says Hansen.
And that person is tallied as a Hatch vote well before the official ballots are counted Tuesday night, June 26.
“I know how many Hatch supporters have already voted” via absentee ballots. “I know how many absentee voters we’ve signed up. No, I won’t tell you those numbers,” Hansen said to UtahPolicy.
Folks who’ve signed up for the state’s absentee balloting option, history shows, are more loyal voters than general citizens, says Hansen.
It may take one or two calls into an absentee balloter’s home to get them to mark their ballots and send them in, but it’s a well-worth-it effort, Hansen adds.
Absentee and early voting supports are like money in the bank, they can’t be swayed or discouraged by last-minute negative advertising – because their ballots are already in the county clerks’ offices.
And that is even more important this election cycle because of the so-called super PACs participation in the 2012 campaigns.
Hatch has already been the subject of negative advertising by an anti-Hatch group FreedomWorks.
And while not yet seen, there is speculation that pro-Liljenquist and/or anti-Hatch super PACs (or vice versa) could be coming in these final two weeks of the GOP primary season.
“Absentee and early voting options have changed campaign strategy,” said Hansen. And smart campaign bosses are doing what they can to identify such early voters and get their ballots cast before Election Day.
Hansen has an early voting telephoning effort starting this week (as do other campaigns, including Liljenquist’s).
Across the state, county clerks are setting up early voting locations where citizens can cast ballots on the regular electronic voting machines in person.
Calls will be made into supporter’s homes. And follow-up checks made to see if those folks have indeed cast early ballots – whose numbers, like absentee ballots, are also public information.
There are 55,000 Republicans signed up for absentee ballots, said Hansen. With enough work, Hatch supporters inside that group can be identified and contacted.
“Besides those numbers, we’ve actually gone back through our lists of Hatch supporters, contacted them, and asked them to sign up for absentee voting.”
Hatch has never had a primary before, so no statistical record there.
But in the 2010 GOP U.S. Senate primary between Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee (won by Lee), there were in total 192,417 ballots cast.
The Utah GOP holds closed primaries, so all those voting must be a registered Republican. Most of those 2010 registered GOPs are still registered as Republicans, so those names are known to both the Hatch and Liljenquist campaigns.
Hansen can match the 55,000 absentee GOP with those who voted in 2010 and with this year’s identified Hatch supporters and get a pretty good idea how his candidate is doing two or three weeks out from primary Election Day.
If 40 percent of the GOP votes in this year’s primary are coming through absentee and early voting, and you know your supporters and you know who has voted early, “you know pretty much were you are” before the polls open on Election Day, said Hansen.
“We’re feeling pretty good about things,” he added, as both the Hatch and Liljenquist campaigns race to get the other 60 percent of the primary vote on June 26.