Winning Illinois

Here's a preliminary analysis of the 2012 presidential results in Illinois to cut through all the excuses and finger-pointing in the media and among political pundits and party "leaders", and focus on why Republicans keep losing.

As you can see, Democratic turnout has increased pretty steadily over the last 4 election cycles in both the top 5 counties, where roughly 2/3 of the votes in Illinois are concentrated. and their turnout has also improved significantly elsewhere around the state.  Meanwhile, Republican turnout has been flat in 2000, 2008, and 2012, and much worse than 2004.  There has been slight growth elsewhere around the state, but not in the top 5 counties.

Regardless of the reasons behind these trends, the situation analysis is pretty obvious.  Unless the Republican Party does something to start attracting more members between elections, it won't be enough to simply "get out the vote" at election time, or try to persuade voters with costly advertising campaigns. 

That demonstrably is not getting the job done, but the party leadership remains in denial about even having a problem.  Instead, the latest excuse is to say that the party is "too conservative", or that the Tea Party supporters have "ruined the party" (even though they did not exist prior to 2009, so that hardly explains the above pattern).  Others claim that we must figure out how to pander better to specific groups of voters to buy their votes, as the Democrats do.

This simple graph of turnout in Cuba Township (Lake County side of Barrington) further illustrates the situation.

In simple terms, the local precincts vary somewhat in total registered voters, but are relatively similar in population after the 2010 Census and remapping of precincts and districts.  Overall turnout in Cuba Township was 77.5% of registered voters in this election, with 9513 ballots cast out of 12,266 registered voters in the township (unofficial early results).

That's a pretty good turnout relative to the rest of Illinois, where the turnout averaged closer to 70% or less this time.  Historically, a turnout in the 70 - 75% range seems to be fairly typical for presidential elections in Illinois.  Midterm elections, such as 2010 or 2014, tend to get roughly a 50% turnout, and local elections can get 25% or even less, as do primary elections, which seem to vary somewhat according to whether or not there are many very competitive races.

As you can see at a glance, the 14 Cuba precincts may add up to 12,266 registered voters, or an average of 876 voters per precinct, but turnout for any candidate rarely exceeds 250 voters per precinct.  In a few cases it was between 300 and 350 in this election, but not more than that.  The minimal level of R votes per precinct in this election was around 200, while the minimal D total was closer to 100.  That reflects the roughly 65 - 35 split of the final vote totals for this specific township in favor of Romney in this election.

Similar analysis of other townships would yield different patterns.  Some townships and specific precincts are obviously more closely divided, or more Democratic, than this one.

The point, however, is pretty simple.  We need to figure out how to boost the turnout to this level in other elections, such as the 2013 local elections and the 2014 midterm, and also increase the turnout above 77.5% in 2016.  In the process, we need to grow the base of 200 or so fairlly predictable Republican voters per precinct to 300 - 350 or more so that the spread is even greater than 65 - 35.  Whether that is achieved by getting more people to register, or more registered voters to vote, or by getting some Democratic voters to change, it is work that needs to be done if Republicans are ever going to become relevant to governance in Illinois again.  The same is true in other townships.

Making excuses won't get the job done.  The Democrats have been persistently growing their base level of support, as shown in both the top 5 counties and statewide over the last 4 election cycles.  Republicans have not.

The party needs to focus on precinct organizing work as a high priority between elections.  Since the party leadership seems incapable of recognizing and addressing that obvious need, while it continues to spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising campaigns which demonstrably are not producing the intended results, it is up to local volunteers to figure out a better solution outside of the party bureaucracy, and to fund and perform the work independently.

That doesn't mean that we are trying to destroy the Republican Party, fire the leaders, or create a third party.  New leaders who follow the same flawed strategies will continue to fail.  It means that we recognize that the party is not getting the job done, regardless of good intentions.  We can't afford to keep losing elections, because it costs all of the successful, productive people of Illinois dearly when the big-government progressive entitlement party keeps winning. 

This isn't about empowering Republicans or Democrats.  It is about saving our state, and ourselves, from government gone wild in the hands of people who think that they can use the power of government to vote themselves an enedless supply of free benefits with other people's money.

This isn't a party fight.  This has to be personal.  We have to win this fight in every neighborhood of every precinct of every district, starting with those places where the investment of time, effort, and resources can have the greatest impact so that we gain momentum and start rapidly building a larger base of supporters in 2013 and 2014.

This isn't rocket science.  Think of any typical "Tea Party" or other local conservative or Republican organization, including "single issue" advocacy groups.  It may have a few hundred "followers" or "supporters" who share similar interests, but perhaps only a few dozen really active "volunteers" who are willing to commit significant time and effort to the cause, and a handful of "activist" leaders who guide their efforts or collaboration with other similar groups.

Now, think of those groups as clusters of precincts in targeted districts to be organized.  For simplicity, suppose that each group "adopts" 20 local precincts which have about 12,000 active voters (16,000 registered = 800 / precinct), out of which the "base" level of Republican support (minimal) is around 200 per precinct, or 4000 in total for the 20 precincts, and the "average" R support is about 50% (300 of 600 active voters out of 800 registered per precinct).  We need to figure out how to drive that R turnout reliably up above 50%, such as to 350 - 400 per precinct..

That means we need to organize the "field work" in those 20 precincts to win the "hearts and minds" of those voters between elections, rather than just annoy them with phone calls and campaign literature or advertising at election time.

In simple terms, we need to consolidate support among the 200 who already generally vote Republican, and the 100 or so more who may often vote Republican, while also winning over another 50 - 100 more who haven't generally voted Republican in the past.  This assumes, of course, that we find candidates worth supporting enthusiastically.

To do that in all 20 precincts, we need to start somewhere and organize all of them over time.  For example, suppose that the group targets a different precinct roughly every other week during the spring, summer and fall.  Break each precinct of 800+ voters down into 20 lists of neighborhoods with 20+ specific target households.  Divide the work up between the activists and volunteers, and look for new supporters, donors, volunteers, and activist leaders as the work advances.  As each precinct is organized by a small team of workers, leave behind a local team leader and supporters who will do the follow-up work to keep the voters in that precinct better organized and actively engaged.  Don't just parachute in once, talk to the voters, drop off some literature, and then disappear.  Develop a more responsive and interactive relationship which addresses their own concerns and encourages their continued participation.

As a simple example, this doesn't have to all be about politicians and election campaigns.  Think about fun ways to engage the interest and involvement of voters in the community.  This could involve social events, parades, block parties, charitable functions, or other activities.  Bring neighbors together to develop closer, trusted relationships.

Within a single year, it should be possible for each such group to significantly improve the election turnout among 12,000+ active voters (16,000+ registered) in 20 precincts.  Over the next 4 years, that process can be repeated in surrounding precincts, or in cooperation with the development of other local groups to perform such work in parallel.

If each such group has the goal of improving turnout in their cluster (such as 20 precincts) by 100 - 200 R votes per precinct, that can have an impact of 2000 - 4000 additional votes per group, plus a more reliable base of 200 votes per precinct, or 4000 votes.  In other words, they would be aiming for 6000 - 8000 votes out of 16,000 registered voters, or some other specific improvement goals according to historical voting performance patterns of those target precincts.  The goals for each district or precinct would vary, but should represent significant improvements.

The point is to develop specific goals for each area, and then develop a viable work plan to achieve those goals, rather than to simply bemoan the fact that Republicans keep losing elections and keep making excuses for failure. 

The details of the specific work plans may vary because the precincts will vary in nature, and what works well in one area may not work well in another.  That's up to the local team leaders to figure out what works best to organize voters in these specific communities.  There needs to be a clear action plan, however, with metrics to determine whether or not the goals are being achieved.  There should be hard evidence of growing public support in the community through activities other than just elections.  By the time that elections roll around, the outcome should not be in doubt because the voter relationships are strong.

The 2013 local elections are an opportunity to start this process.  Voter turnout is remarkably low in local elections, so organizing work can make a huge difference.  The same is true in the 2014 primary, so we have over a year in which to organize as many targeted districts and precincts as possible, both locally and in collaboration with other groups.

The Awaken America group is working on specific action plans of this nature for 2013 - 2014.

If you are tired of the high cost of losing elections, please join or support our efforts, whether by volunteer work or donations.  We also welcome referrals to potential supporters.  Contact: