Groups to Spend $30 Million Targeting Infrequent U.S. Voters

(Bloomberg) -- Democrats trying to win control of Congress in 2018 will get a $30 million boost from Planned Parenthood’s political arm and other liberal groups working to mobilize infrequent voters favorable to their cause.

Planned Parenthood Votes and three other organizations say they’re committed to spending that much to target people who who might cast ballots in presidential elections but tend to skip off-year ballots like the November congressional midterms.

The investment seeks to change the electorate’s composition in three states expected to have close House and Senate contests -- Nevada, Florida and Michigan -- by encouraging more minorities, women and those younger than 35 to vote. President Donald Trump won Florida and Michigan in 2016 while narrowly losing Nevada to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Everything is on the line in 2018 for people of color, young people and women,” Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, said in an interview.

Many of the issues most important to these demographic groups have been “attacked and undermined” by the Trump administration, Schifeling said. “We are in a really historic, different climate than we were in 2016,” she said.

Targeting Florida

Other groups working on the “Win Justice” project include the Service Employees International Union, the Center for Community Change Action, and the Color of Change political action committee. The campaign, first outlined to Bloomberg News, has a goal of reaching 2.5 million voters in the three states, mostly in urban and suburban areas.

Roughly half of the people the groups want to reach are in Florida, where Republican Governor Rick Scott is challenging Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in what’s expected to be one of the most expensive races in the U.S. this year. The work will be concentrated in South Florida and in the Orlando and Tampa areas, according to the groups.

Republicans have traditionally had a turnout advantage in midterm elections because of the Democratic Party’s reliance on young and nonwhite voters, two groups that typically vote in smaller proportions in non-presidential years. But Democrats hope that trend won’t hold this year based on wins they’ve scored in special elections and in local and state races since Trump entered the White House.

Women Running

A surging number of female Democratic candidates also suggests a higher level of enthusiasm. Planned Parenthood, which provides family planning. abortions and other women’s health services, also says it’s added 2 million new supporters since Trump’s election, increasing its membership to 11.5 million.

Engaging infrequent voters isn’t a new strategy, but attempts to boost their numbers in midterm elections haven’t worked well in the past. The four groups say they plan to change that by starting their engagement much earlier than normal this year, and by finding and training local organizers with deep roots in their communities.

“When we win them, midterm elections are about base turnout,” said Rashad Robinson, a spokesman for the Color of Change PAC. “We want to make sure that the electorate represents the population.”

Early polling offers Democrats reason for optimism in turning out at least one part of their base. More young voters say they’ll definitely vote this year than have at similar times before the last two midterm elections, a poll released last week by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed.

The survey of adults ages 18 to 29 revealed that 37 percent said they’ll “definitely be voting” in November. That’s higher than the same poll at about the same point in 2010 and 2014, the two most recent midterm elections, when 31 percent and 23 percent answered that way, respectively.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.