2015 – 2016
Progressive Turnout Project launched in July 2015 with a simple mission: get Democrats to the polls. In the 2016 cycle, we executed tailor-made Get Out the Vote programs in 19 competitive congressional districts around the country.
The districts that we played a role in are:
AZ-01 CA-25 CO-06 FL-18 FL-26
IA-01 IA-03 IL-10 ME-02 MI-01
MN-02 MN-03 MN-08 NE-02 NJ-05
NV-04 NY-03 NY-19 WI-08
In total, we reached out to more than 300,000 voters at their doors, on their computers, and/or in their mail boxes with a message focused on getting them out to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket.
2017 – 2018
So far in 2017, we’ve made aggressive heavy investments in field programs in three competitive special elections. Though Democrats came up short in these races, our field experiment results will guide us in running more effective voter turnout programs going forward.
In Montana’s At-Large Congressional District, we spent $225,000 on field staff, mail, and text messages in support of Democrat Rob Quist. In Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, we hired 7 field staff who knocked 25,000 doors and worked with over 300 volunteers to make 16,000 phone calls. In South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, we spent five-figures on targeted voter turnout text messages.
This cycle, we are expanding our targeted districts to include competitive state legislative races in select states where the legislature plays a key role in redistricting. Virginia’s House of Delegates is the first place where we’re turning our state legislative program into action. There we are spending $600,000 on a 25-person field program targeting 10 Republican-held House of Delegate seats.
Additionally, in the wake of the 2016 elections, we have launched the Progressive Turnout Project Community Action Network (PTP-CAN) to engage with supporters who want to get more directly involved in the political process. We have hired Regional Field Directors throughout the country who are organizing supporters to highlight damage being done by the Republican agenda. We also created a web platform that makes it easy for supporters to call their elected officials and speak out on a variety of issues. Check it out at www.turnoutaction.org.
We’re part of a proud tradition of progressives using data and behavioral science to hone campaign strategy. We synthesize existing research across a variety of fields and then run our own experiments to measure the impact of our tactics.
Whether we’re asking someone on the phone to rank how likely they are to vote or talking to someone at their door about what motivated them to vote most recently, we assess the effect of each program using a randomized control trial experiment (RTC).
To run a RTC, we allocate people in our universe at random to receive one of several treatments. One group of people will receive no communication – this is the “control group”. By testing the result of the universe of people we did outreach to versus the universe of people in our control group, we can measure the precise impact that our programs had. (In many cases for us, the result we are testing for is whether or not a person voted.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you focused on congressional and state legislative campaigns?
Our mission, turning out inconsistent Democratic voters, has the greatest impact on congressional and state legislative races.
That’s because these races are generally voted on by fewer people, cost less money, and have fewer outside groups spending on them than statewide races.
As we execute and improve upon the best tactics to turn out Democrats, we can have an outsized impact on fighting back against the Republican agenda by focusing on these local races rather than statewide races.
How do you choose your districts?
In choosing what competitive congressional and state legislative seats to target in 2017-18, we will consider a number of factors including the partisan make-up of the district, how many inconsistent Democratic voters reside there, and the concentration of these voters.
We prioritize focusing on states that have especially egregious gerrymandered districts or odious voter suppression efforts.
What kind of impact will you make?
In the 2016 election, 18 congressional races were won or lost by 5 percent or less.
We know that boosting turnout by just a few thousand votes can make the difference in competitive races every cycle, and we aim to work in Congressional and State Legislative districts where our communication with Democratic voters can make the difference.
But there’s another important and complex reason that turnout matters: the difference between consistent voters and less consistent voters reflects not only a difference in privilege, but also a substantial difference in policy preference. Data shows that non-voters are more progressive than voters. They’re vastly more supportive of policies like a higher minimum wage and free community college and believe that government should work harder to reduce inequality. Empowering these voters gives them a more meaningful voice in electoral politics.
How do you raise your money?
We are a grassroots Political Action Committee (PAC) that relies on the activism of supporters nationwide to power our mission. More than 120,000 supporters have pitched in to advance the cause of getting Democrats to the polls. Our average contribution is only $14.
Do you work with campaigns?
We cannot coordinate our efforts with federal candidates. In most states, we cannot coordinate with state candidates, though those rules vary by state.
PTP’s field representatives keep their eyes open and ears on the ground to best ensure that we aren’t duplicating efforts.
Where: Northern suburbs of Atlanta
Incumbent: Open Seat
Election Date: June 20, 2017
Prior to his appointment as Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Republican Congressman Tom Price held this metro Atlanta district for more than a decade. Though historically a Republican area, this district is rapidly trending blue, and Trump won it by only one point. The district has a sizable 18-34 voting age population, a voting bloc rife with Democrats who are less likely to vote in non-presidential elections. In the run-off, Democrat Jon Ossoff faces Republican Karen Handel, who was forced from Komen after persuading the organization to end support of Planned Parenthood.
Where: Entire state
Incumbent: Open Seat
Election Date: May 25, 2017
Democrat Rob Quist, a famous local folk singer, is running for Congress against the 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee, self-funder Greg Gianforte. Though the state can be challenging territory for partisan Democrats, Montana has a history of electing independent and populist Democrats in the vein of Quist, such as Governor Steve Bullock and Senator Jon Tester. Montana’s At-Large Congressional District was vacated when the sitting Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke was appointed to be Trump’s Secretary of the Interior.
Where: Targeted Legislative Seats
Election Date: November 7, 2017
Republicans drew heavily gerrymandered state legislative seats after the 2010 census in an effort to lock in lopsided victories in a state trending blue. We are focusing our field efforts on ten Republican-held House of Delegate districts — Districts 2, 13, 21, 31, 42, 50, 67, 72, 73, and 94 — which were all won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. An open seat gubernatorial election, along with other statewide elections, will also be on the ballot.
Where: Eastern Arizona
Incumbent: Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick
When incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick chose not to seek re-election in order to pursue a U.S. Senate bid against veteran Republican John McCain, former GOP state legislator Tom O’Halleran announced his candidacy to fill the seat as a Democrat in what has become one of the most competitive Congressional races in the country. Despite voting Republican in the past three presidential elections, this district is considered a toss up this year, which is why Democrats are determined to mobilize on election day and not to let it fall into Republican hands.
Where: North Los Angeles
Incumbent: Republican Stephen Knight
CA-25 is the most Republican congressional district to be located primarily in Los Angeles County, but Democrats know they can win this seat if they are able to mobilize the district’s large population of Hispanic voters. With the right allocation of resources and targeted mobilization efforts, the Progressive Turnout Project aims to bolster the chances of Bryan Caforio (D) upsetting first-term Republican incumbent Stephen Knight in the general election.
Where: East Denver Suburbs
Incumbent: Republican Mike Coffman
Democrats have been trying for years to unseat Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, and with Hillary Clinton opening a wide lead over Donald Trump, this is their best opportunity to date. Democrats must not ignore Colorado’s sixth district, which Coffman could lose if enough voters show up to the polls in support of Democrat challenger and former state Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Coffman’s refusal to endorse or vote for his party’s presidential nominee this year has solidified him as a formidable opponent with wide appeal who will require a massive mobilization of Democratic voters in order to defeat.
Where: Southeastern Florida
Incumbent: Democrat Patrick Murphy
Incumbent Patrick Murphy is not seeking reelection in 2016 in order to pursue a U.S. Senate bid challenging previous presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, which leaves this congressional seat up for grabs between Democrat Randy Perkins and Republican Brian Mast. FL-18 is another battleground district where both parties know that voter turnout will likely determine the outcome in November.
Where: Southern Florida
Incumbent: Republican Carlos Curbelo
This battleground district, created after the 2010 census, will see Republican Incumbent Carlos Curbelo square off against Democratic challenger and former U.S. Representative Joe Garcia, who is determined to return to Washington in order to end the Republican-orchestrated gridlock and restore functionality to Congress. Although both Presidential campaigns are already investing heavily in Florida leading up to the November election, additional outreach and mobilization of sporadic Democratic voters is much needed in this must-win district.
Where: Northeast Iowa
Incumbent: Republican Rod Blum
This D+5 district, which went for President Obama by wide margins in 2008 and 2012, is one of the best pickup opportunities for Democrats this cycle. A tough senate race and low turnout led to a narrow victory by Republican Rod Blum in 2014, but Democratic candidate Monica Vernon is gunning to take this seat back in 2016.
Where: Southeastern Iowa
Incumbent: Republican David Young
A late addition to our target list, Iowa’s third is a battleground district where Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer seeks to unseat freshman congressman Young, who was elected to office in 2014 when national voter turnout was at a record low. Although Young has had a slight lead in the polls, his unwavering support of the Republican nominee for President has energized Democrats in this competitive district where a majority of voters narrowly supported Obama in both 2008 and 2012, making IA-3 another district worth watching on November 8th.
Where: North suburbs of Chicago
Incumbent: Republican Bob Dold
With a PVI of D+8, IL-10 is one of the most Democratic districts held by a Republican in the entire country. Republican Bob Dold won the seat in the tea party wave of 2010, but was unseated by Democrat Brad Schneider in 2012. Historically low turnout and a tough Governor’s race in 2014 helped Bob Dold recapture the seat, but if Democratic voters turnout in 2016, Dold is going to be one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the House.
Where: Northern Maine
Incumbent: Republican Bruce Poliquin
Democrats are hoping to unseat one-term incumbent Bruce Poliquin, who won this rural D+2 district in a 2014 upset. The district went decisively for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 and 2014 candidate Emily Cain has already re-entered the race with the support of EMILY’s List. If the Democrats in his district make it to the polls, Poliquin is going to be in trouble.
Where: Northern Michigan
Incumbent: Republican Dan Benishek
MI-01 has been a battleground district for years, which was highlighted in 2012 when Republican incumbent Dan Benishek won by only 1,881 votes after serving one term in office. 2016 is shaping up to be similar, with Michigan Democratic Party leader Lon Johnson squaring off against retired USMC general Jack Bergman in what will be yet another highly competitive congressional election worth watching.
Where: South Twin Cities
Incumbent: Republican John Kline
After Republican incumbent John Kline announced that he would not seek reelection after holding the office for over a decade, members from both parties began campaigning vigorously to fill the vacant seat, which has long been considered a toss up. Democrat Angie Craig, a former medical business leader, will face off against Republican Jason Lewis, a former conservative radio jockey in this highly competitive race that shares many similarities to the presidential election. In 2008, McCain defeated Obama by less than 2%, however Obama narrowly won by .1% four years later, making this district one to watch in the 2016 general election.
Where: Western Minneapolis suburbs
Incumbent: Republican Erik Paulsen
When state Sen. Terri Bonoff announced she would challenge four-term GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen in suburban Minneapolis’s 3rd District, Democrats began preparing for what will inevitably be a difficult contest in November. Paulsen took 58 percent of the vote in 2012 and 62 percent in 2014, but Donald Trump’s nomination has been problematic for down-ticket Republicans in the 3rd, which is by far the best-educated and highest-income district in the state. Although voters in MN-03 voted for President Obama narrowly in both 2008 (51 percent) and 2012 (49 percent), Bonoff must fire up the party base in order to win.
Where: Northern Minnesota
Incumbent: Democrat Rick Nolan
Progressive Democrat Rick Nolan took this seat in 2012 and managed to hold onto this rural Minnesota seat during an otherwise tough 2014 cycle. Mobilizing Democrats in this traditionally swing district could ensure victory and establish Nolan as a three term incumbent.
Where: Omaha metropolitan area
Incumbent: Democrat Brad Ashford
Nebraska’s second congressional district is shaping up to be a critical battleground in the fight for both the House and the presidency come November. Like Maine, Nebraska awards their electoral votes on a congressional district basis AND it is home to a vulnerable House freshman- Democrat Brad Ashford. Pro-business republicans have historically dominated NE-02, but Ashford was able to win the district in a political upset in 2014, which he hopes to prove was no fluke this November if enough Democrats follow the advice of Omaha native Warren Buffet and turn out to vote.
Where: Northern New Jersey
Incumbent: Republican Scott Garrett
Despite winning over 55% of the vote in each of his past seven elections, Republican incumbent Scott Garrett’s hold on New Jersey’s 5th congressional district is more vulnerable than ever leading up to the 2016 General Election, when he will square off against Democratic challenger and former President Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer. Hoping to take advantage of Garrett’s unwavering support of the Republican presidential nominee and extreme social conservatism, Democrats are working hard in NJ-05 to increase voter turnout among progressives and elect Gottheimer in order to reduce the Tea Party’s obstructionary influence in Congress.
Where: Central Nevada
Incumbent: Republican Cresent Hardy
Republican Cresent Hardy is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in 2016, making Nevada’s 4th a battleground district where Democrats hope to make up for lost ground and regain the congressional seat in the upcoming General Election. Despite supporting Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections by a wide margin, NV-04 will not be easy to flip blue if sporadic democratic voters don’t turn out and vote on November 8th.
Where: Long Island
Incumbent: Democrat Steve Israel
This Long Island seat suddenly opened up when Democrat Steve Israel announced his retirement in early January. The district has an even PVI, making it highly competitive, but it went for President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. The race is still shaping up, but its evenly divided electorate, and location right outside New York City will ensure this is a competitive and expensive race between Tom Suozzi (D) and Jack Martins (R) where field can make the difference.
Where: Central New York/ Hudson Valley
Incumbent: Republican Chris Gibson
New York’s 19th is historically Republican-leaning, but that’s not stopping Democrat nominee Zephyr Teachout, who, with the help of endorsements from EMILY’s List, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Bernie Sanders, hopes to defeat Republican nominee John Faso and succeed in flipping this congressional district blue. What has become a battleground district in recent election cycles will likely be one where voter turnout can make the difference.
Where: Northeast Wisconsin
Incumbent: Republican Reid Ribble
Three term incumbent Republican Reid Ribble is retiring after this year and Democrats are confident that their nominee Tom Nelson is capable of receiving enough votes in November to fill the seat. With the DCCC already planning to support Nelson by spending heavily on TV advertisements in October, investing in a robust ground game is crucial if Democrats hope to increase voter turnout and defeat Republican Mike Gallagher in this Republican toss up district.
Winning each and every one of these districts is essential if we’re going to take back the House. We know our programs can play a critical role in taking out vulnerable Republicans and protecting the Democratic members fighting for our progressive values in Congress.