Published: April 16, 2020

The spread of Covid-19 and the restrictions of social distancing mean that almost all campaign outreach in 2020 will be digital. While this new reality is posing challenges for many campaigns, others have quickly adapted and demonstrated impressive results. 

The most successful campaign run by an organization during Covid-19 so far is arguably the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s management of their Presidential primary in April. Within two weeks, the party pivoted from a largely on-the-ground GOTV effort to a fully online program. Instead of massive door-knocking weekends, street visibility, phone banking, and poll-watching, the Wisconsin Dems harnessed their volunteer powers to turn completely digital. 

The campaign work fell into three main buckets: 

  1. Organizing: Coordinating the switch from in-person GOTV to online. 
  2. Data collection: Extensive monitoring of the absentee voting process and complete digital categorization of voters.
  3. Voter protection: In previous years, on-site volunteers observed and protected the integrity of voting. In 2020, these volunteers switched to proactive outreach to educate voters about absentee voting and pursuing returned ballots.

The key elements to the Wisconsin Dems’ digital success:

  • Calling registered Democrats to verify they had requested mail-in ballots
  • Following up with voters to ask if they had filled out their ballots
  • Verifying supporters had mailed in their ballots

Along the election path, volunteers accustomed to poll-watching became online helpers on Facebook and Twitter, educating and directing the voting public. By pivoting to digital so quickly and effectively, the Wisconsin Dems turned their vote-by-mail percentage from 15% to 80% and scored upset victories in many down-ballot races.