The Democratic National Committee unveils on Thursday the largest midterm voter registration drive in the history of the party, hoping to build on the organizing success of the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, which brought new voters to the polls and re-engaged drop-off voters.
"What we learned in 2008 is when we expand the pool of voters we win," said a DNC strategy memo.
Democrats face a tough history lesson: The party in power almost always loses seats in the midterms. That's why "we need to do more, because of the historical headwinds against us," a DNC official told me.
Each state and county has its own set of registration rules and deadlines, which often are confusing, creating hurdles for would-be voters. To address that, the DNC drive will include the newest online tools -- including a one-stop shop to register at www.RaiseYourVote.com, as well as funding traditional grassroots operations.
Midterm election turnout is never as high as in presidential years, with drop-off across the board demographically but especially large among African Americans, Latinos, single women and young voters, according to DNC research comparing 2004 to 2006.
The RaiseYourVote website will allow visitors to connect with the right place to register to vote, learn local registration deadlines and early vote information. There is also a widget enabling state and local Democratic websites to use the tool.
The registration drive is a component of the DNC's previously announced $50 million Vote 2010 project, intended to bring people who voted for the first time in 2008 back to the polls.
To compare: In 2006, the last midterm election year, the DNC budgeted $17 million; in 2002 -- the last year of the mega soft money donation bonanza -- the DNC committed $25 million. One reason for the extra spending: the DNC this year does not want to be dependent on the voter registration programs run by outside Democratic-allied groups.
"Of the 15 million first-time voters in 2008, our analysis shows 72 percent voted for the President," the DNC memo said, with half of those new voters being African Americans and Latinos; 30 percent were under the age of 30.
In addition, "we're utilizing smart online advertising to reach key voters -- who we know overlapped with the first-time voter universe in 2008," the memo said. Ads will appear on Latina.com and BlackPlanet.com. There will be e-mail on Daily Candy to target single women and on Yelp! to connect with young voters. "More and more of the electorate spend time and get their news online, and RaiseYourVote.com will make it as easy as possible to register to vote." Twitter and Facebook, staples of the 2008 Obama success story, will also be part of the social networking drive.
After the 2008 election, the Obama for America presidential campaign was folded into the DNC and renamed Organizing for America, retaining the famous logo and other branding. OFA will, according to the memo, target its "voter registration efforts at key constituencies that made up the first-time voter block in 2008."
The OFA will resurrect the Beauty and Barbershop program, used in 2008 to get store owners in African-American communities to set up "registration hubs." Others targeted will be Latino voters at World Cup events and students in dorms.
A DNC "National Day of Action" is set for July 17.