Faith Loudon grabs one of the dozens of shopping bags lined-up across the floor of Trump headquarters in Pasadena, Maryland and empties the contents. The bags are for precinct greeters to use at the polls to sway voters toward Republican candidates.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Loudon says showing us a Trump/Pence sign and flyers full of information on Republicans running in other races. Early voters have been waiting in line for longer than an hour at some polling places in Anne Arundel County offering Republican poll greeters ample time to plead their case.
“Sometimes as much as 30 percent can have their minds changed by a positive person waving and greeting them at the polling place.” Loudon flashes an infectious smile.
With a soft voice and a gentle caring manner, she could be anybody’s grandmother. She ran for Congress and lost years ago. “The lord had other plans for me,” she says. Now she’s an Anne Arundel County coordinator and a member of the Republican Central Committee.
She oversees a handful of volunteers staffing the headquarters, giving out over 3,000 yard signs and other campaign materials while coordinating the final push towards election day.
“The Trump volunteers are so enthusiastic; they will practically do anything to help us,” she says. Her goal is to flood the county with people waving Trump/Pence signs along roadways and at polling places.
“Because of the controversy (FBI investigation of Clinton emails) there are a lot of people that are undecided and we want to help them make their decision,” she told VOA.
Trump supporters in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. (Photo: J. Oni / VOA)
Republicans are outnumbered in the heavily Democratic state of Maryland. According to Loudon, there are approximately 122,000 Republicans, 149,000 Democrats, and somewhere around 100,000 unaffiliated voters in Anne Arundel County.
“I really hope that we can turn out that 122,000," Loudon says. "I mean if we get 60 percent, that is a lot.”
Using social media to get out the vote
Gone are the days when campaigns had massive rooms full of volunteers making phone calls - rallying supporters to turn out and vote. Volunteers still make phone calls, but usually from home with the aid of special computer software.
Jerry Cave with the Montgomery County Maryland GOP says social media, is a far more effective tool for reaching voters. “Two-thirds of social media is Facebook, so really that is where most of it is happening, but a lot of it also happens with Twitter,” he told us.
Jerry Cave of the Montgomery County Maryland GOP. (Photo: J. Oni / VOA)
Cave, worked in sales and marketing at local radio stations for years. Now retired, he along with other editors runs the Maryland For Trump Facebook page.
They post stories from the news of the day to how to find the closest polling place to you. Cave says with phone banks, campaigns could reach thousands of voters. Now with Facebook, they can reach millions.
“Facebook records metrics on all this stuff,” he says. In the last month through this one Facebook page, we are reaching 1,747,693 people. We are not guessing, Facebook is telling us this."
Screenshot of Maryland for Trump Facebook page.
Cave says that 16 percent of those people are engaging in one way or another by commenting, liking, or sharing a post.
“That’s incredible to get that high of an activity. We are communicating,” he says. “This reaches our voter and makes sure that they are energized to come out and vote. And it is working as you can see because in the early voting in Maryland, on the first day of early voting, Maryland had 62 percent more people vote that day than they did 4 years ago. ”
Cave says in the conservative, more Republican, areas of the state the early turnout has been even higher.
The Democratic ground game
In a ballroom in Arlington Virginia, the Democrats rally their troops to sign up poll greeters to work on election day. There is a confident but focused air in the room. Arlington County is one of the heavily Democratic Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington D.C.
Democrats are taking a slightly different approach than Republicans in the final days. Heavily influenced by President Barack Obama’s successful street by street, block by block ground game in the last two election cycles, Arlington County Democrats will be fanning out through neighborhoods knocking on doors through next Tuesday.
Carol Fontein, Chair of Precinct Operations in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo: J. Oni / VOA)
Driven by high tech analytics on who and where the voters are, this is a labor intensive effort that often draws volunteers from nearby Maryland and Washington D.C.
“One of the things that happens in presidential elections is we get a lot of people coming from Maryland and DC who want to do anything and everything to help”, says Carol Fontein, Chair of Precinct Operations. “Virginia is always a purple state (can go either way) so we get a lot of the attention. They feel their vote isn’t as important in DC or in Maryland because those are always Democratic places.”
Arlington County Democrats volunteer. (Photo: J. Oni / VOA)
Volunteers are involved with everything from knocking on doors to driving voters who need transportation to the polls.
“Arlington will also do a good job Tuesday looking at who hasn’t come to the polls yet,” says Congressman Donald Beyer who stopped by to rally Democrats.
Beyer, who represents Arlington County is also running for re-election this year. “Right up until 7 o’clock that night (Tuesday) they will be knocking on people’s doors to make sure that every possible person can get out and be a part of this.”
According to estimates, early voting nationwide is greater than the record pace set four years ago.