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Computers, cabs, phone banks, shoe leather all part of Election Day ground game

Cab rides and bus rides. Phone banks, door knocking, church outreach and coffees with Chicago’s voting seniors.

On Election Day, the five candidates for mayor know it’s about turnout and they are working all their angles to get their supporters to the polls.

BEFORE YOU VOTE:
Everything you need to know on Election Day

With a $15 million war chest, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign by far has the most money to spend on its ground game.

“The Emanuel campaign has deployed thousands of volunteers out of 16 offices citywide, going door-to-door, making calls and talking to their neighbors in support of the mayor’s re-election,” said campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry. “Mayor Emanuel has broad labor and grassroots support, and our volunteer team will continue to fight for Mayor Emanuel’s vision for a better Chicago until tomorrow at 7 p.m.”

For the mayor, it’s not just about survival.

He wants to close out the night with a solid win capturing more than 50 percent of the vote and thus, eliminating the need for an April 7 runoff election with the second-highest vote getter.

A survey released Monday by Ogden & Fry showed Emanuel at 48 percent, just shy of reaching the 50 percent plus one he needs.

“Statistically, the result is within the margin of error so it is too close to call,” an analysis by the Chicago polling firm said.

In 2011, Emanuel avoided a runoff when he won 55 percent of the vote – arguably against bigger-named opponents such as Carol Moseley Braun and Gery Chico.

Voter turnout was at 42 percent that year. In the municipal elections of 2003 and 2007, turnout was at about 33 percent.

After a term in office, Emanuel faces the potential of bitter voter backlash, particularly from the Chicago Teachers Union, which has backed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who ranks second in recent polls. Just hours before Tuesday’s election, Garcia remained confident that he could force a runoff.

Chicago mayoral candidate, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia shakes hands during a campaign stop Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, in Chicago.  (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Chicago mayoral candidate, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia shakes hands during a campaign stop Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

The Garcia campaign has nine regional field offices and about 4,000 volunteers knocking on doors and making phone calls, said campaign manager Andrew Sharp. The goal is to get 100,000 targeted voters to the polls — even if it means offering them rides.

The Garcia voters were identified through polling, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing. Results of that initial screening were then fed into a “sophisticated micro-targeting operation” using data analytics and consumer data purchased from a Washington, D.C.-based firm called Catalyst, Sharp said.

“Chuy has been outspoken on education. So, we looked for parents of CPS students, based on consumer data of who’s likely to be a parent and figure out who is most supportive. We also tried to identify voters most sensitive to the fairness issue,” Sharp said. “We did what the Obama campaign did in 2008 and 2012. We used one-on-one conversations with voters on the phone at their doors, fed that information back into a large data base and came up with a score to say, ‘This person with these ten traits is most likely to support Chuy.’”

On another front, progressive groups will be knocking on doors to get out voters to support an elected school board. An advisory question related to elected school boards will appear in 37 out of 50 wards in Chicago.

“Rahm Emanuel’s rubber-stamp school board has been a total disaster,” Kristen Crowell, executive director of the labor-community coalition, United Working Families, said in a statement. The group has endorsed Garcia for mayor. “We expect the people to reject Rahm’s status quo Tuesday, and then we’ll go to Springfield to show lawmakers that Chicago taxpayers want to elect their school board members.”

Still, Emanuel’s organization has the benefit of fine-tuning its campaign work from four years ago. Before the polls even open, the Emanuel camp hopes to have thousands of early and absentee votes after mailing out absentee ballots and driving people to the polls to vote early.

“We put a lot of effort into that to bank votes. Sixty percent of all the early and absentee votes are ours or slightly a little less than that,” said an Emanuel campaign strategist, who asked to remain anonymous.

Emanuel volunteers, including some provided by the Laborers Union, will be working phone banks and knocking on doors to get voters identified as Emanuel supporters to the polls.

It’s based on a system that targets voters and rates them on a 0-to-100 point system based on how likely they are to vote for Emanuel. Emanuel supporters tend to be older and college-educated. African-American women over the age of 65 are the most likely black voters to support the mayor.

It could explain why Emanuel used his final full day of campaigning having coffees at senior homes.

“We call voters identified as our supporters. You’ve been creating that list for weeks and even months through phone-banking, door-to-door, polling, online and focus groups,” the Emanuel adviser said, refusing to identify the campaign’s precise number of targeted voters. “You work in high-concentration areas where you know you’re strong — like the lakefront. To the extent there are ward organizations left, they’re working for us also. Some are better than others, like the 13th and 19th Wards. But there are not that many left. To the extent they’re helpful, we’ll take it. But we’re not depending on it.”

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who never had enough money to air television commercials, hopes to have as many as 600 volunteers on the street knocking on doors and calling into high-rise buildings where entry is denied.

Campaign manager Marcus Ferrell refused to identify a specific number of targeted voters. He would only say that the Fioretti campaign has roughly a dozen buses at its disposal and 60 cabdrivers who have volunteered to pick people up and drive them to the polls.

“Bob has been a longtime advocate for cabdrivers in the city and they’re just returning the love,” Ferrell said. “And one of our key supporters who believes in Ald. Fioretti’s vision for Chicago has access to a bus company. It’s an in-kind donation.”

In this Feb. 4, 2015 file photo, Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, right, shakes hands with businessman Willie Wilson before a televised mayoral debate in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

In this Feb. 4, 2015 file photo, Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti, right, shakes hands with businessman Willie Wilson before a televised mayoral debate in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Businessman Willie Wilson hopes to use his “huge church network” to put 5,000 volunteers on the street, according to the Rev. Greg Livingston, a campaign adviser.

The Wilson volunteers, roughly 80 of them working phone banks, will be targeting 318,000 voters with vans and buses to drive voters to the polls on what’s expected to be another frigid February day.

“It’s a network that has developed over decades that stems from Dr. Wilson’s kindness to them over decades,” Livingston said, referring to the millions of dollars that Wilson has donated to black churches.

William “Dock” Walls is also running for mayor.

In this Feb. 21, 2015 photo, William Walls, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, greets attendees at Rainbow PUSH headquarters in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Richard A. Chapman)

In this Feb. 21, 2015 photo, William Walls, a candidate for mayor of Chicago, greets attendees at Rainbow PUSH headquarters in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Richard A. Chapman)

The Chicago Board of Elections reported that as of Saturday, early voting was up 23 percent over ballots cast in the 2011 election. Same-day voter registration ended on Saturday and the registrations will not take place on Election Day – which could save the city from the types of long lines that polling places faced in November’s gubernatorial election.

Even though early voting was up over 2011, however, doesn’t mean Election Day voting will follow that trend. In November, Democrats felt empowered by early voting tallies only to see Election Day turnout in the city drop when compared to the previous governor’s race.

Polling places are open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all of the city’s 2,069 precincts. For information on your polling place, go to www.chicagoelections.com.