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Madigan COVID-19 campaign guidance falls far short of other caucus advice

Sunday, Mar 15, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

[Comments are now open on this post.]

* You may recall Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s statement yesterday…

“In light of guidance from public health officials to practice social distancing to stem the COVID-19 outbreak, political campaigns and organizations should take immediate steps to cease in-person get-out-the-vote efforts. At this moment, we must all do everything we can to stop the spread of this virus. While I am fully aware that this is not an ideal situation for campaigns as I understand the type of in-person and close contact campaigning that is traditionally done within the final days of an election, everyone must now take responsibility for keeping our communities safe. There are plenty of organizing tactics available that don’t involve in-person contact such as phone banking, texting out the vote and other virtual communications practices.

“Those who wish to lead us in government should model good and safe behavior by stopping these activities in order to slow the spread of this virus. This is a time to put safety over politics.”

* I reached out to all four legislative caucuses yesterday to see what they were doing. Here’s Magen Ryan with the Senate Democrats…

Days ago President Harmon asked campaigns to transition to electronic communication, phonebanking, and literature drops without voter interaction

Jayme Odom at the House Republican Organization…

We’ve asked campaigns to follow CDC and IDPH guidelines, cease door-to-door activities, and take their campaigns more fully into the digital space.

This is the email sent to Senate Republican candidates…

In keeping with recommendations from The Illinois Department of Public Health, and out of an abundance of caution, we are encouraging all Illinois Senate Republican candidates to suspend in-person campaigning for the foreseeable future. It is imperative we do all we can to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. You can continue utilizing other methods of reaching voters that do not require face-to-face contact.

* I’ve been trying to get a response out of Team Madigan for more than 24 hours. Here’s what they finally told me this afternoon…

Over the weekend, we sent a note to staff and others with general health precautions regarding COVID-19 that follow the direction of the governor’s office. Included in that advice was to limit their interactions with the public, stay home if they exhibit symptoms and discouraging large gatherings like fundraisers and town halls. We also advised staff that those who do not feel comfortable directly engaging with voters and the general public should not, and we’ll work to ramp up our texting and phone banking operations.

In addition, the Democratic Party of Illinois is assisting local election authorities by initiating an outreach program to Democratic voters in precincts where polling places have been relocated.

I’ve checked around with several House Democrats and no one has received any guidance other than a memo from Madigan’s chief of staff on Friday which talked about “how to work remotely and keep time,” according to one HDem.

The man is the committeeperson of the 13th Ward, the chairman of the state party, the speaker of the Illinois House who has by far the largest campaign operation of anyone in this state, and that’s all he’s got?

…Adding… Sigh…

…Adding… I just received a text from a House Democrat who is working a polling place today telling me that he has received no guidance from his regional manager or campaign manager on this topic.

…Adding… One HDem member remembered receiving a memo from HQ a couple of days ago with election day guidance. This is the extent of the health advice

It is important to remind volunteers and voters to practice healthy handwashing and social distancing when entering polling locations, particularly if the location is busy or located in a high-risk building. Please work with your local election authorities and election judges to ensure public health protections
are in place, such as signs directing voters to restrooms or handwashing stations, sanitizer, tissues, etc.

Compare that with “without voter interaction” (Harmon), “cease door-to-door activities” (Durkin) and “suspend in-person campaigning” (Brady).

…Adding… The House Democrats sent regional and in-district staff a memo yesterday. It included things like encouraging people to wash their hands for 20 seconds, avoid large gatherings, avoid using seniors and people with pre-existing conditions at polling places, keeping your distance at the doors and avoid shaking hands.

Again, that’s much less than the other three caucuses.

Meanwhile, this is the guidance issued to party chairs by the Illinois Democratic County Chairs Association…

• Switch all door to door canvassing to phone banking. If possible, highly encourage virtual phone banking where volunteers can make calls from home.
• Limit or close access to County Party Headquarters or campaign offices.
• If you are hosting phone banking at your County Party Headquarters, please ask individuals to use their personal cell phones to make calls. If individuals are unwilling to do so, please make sure you use disinfecting wipes on the phones volunteers use.
• Make sure individuals are practicing the CDC and WHO recommended good hygiene practice of handwashing (or hand sanitizer use), particularly when they enter your space. If you are unable to close your Headquarters; please have soap and hand sanitizer available for individuals coming into your space. Please post signs encouraging people to take advantage of these resources. CDC printouts available here:
• Limit or cancel any Get Out The Vote rallies & Primary Election Night Parties.
• Ask all Precinct Committeepersons to contact their Election Judges before Tuesday to ensure judges still plan on serving on March 17th.
• Ask all Precinct Committeepersons to check on their polling location at 6am on Tuesday morning to ensure the polling location is open on time.
• If a polling location has been changed due to concerns about Covid-19, coronavirus, please consider doing outreach to Democratic voters in the precincts effected to make sure they know the polling location has changed. Please include all relevant information including the address of the new polling location. This can be done via social media, phonebank, robo call, or email.

* Meanwhile, Gov. JB Pritzker was on Meet the Press today with Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike Dewine

CHUCK TODD: Both of you have primaries on Tuesday. You have indicated a couple of days ago, you guys will go forward. Any hesitance? Governor DeWine, you first.

GOV. MIKE DEWINE: We’re going to go ahead. But we’re telling people, again, to be careful. The good thing in Ohio is we have basically four weeks of voting. People can vote today. We’re urging them to go vote today.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE: They can vote Monday. They’ve got 13 hours on Tuesday. So that just naturally spreads it out. We’re asking them to be very, very careful.

CHUCK TODD: Governor Pritzker, any second thoughts about the primary on Tuesday?

GOV. J.B. PRITZKER: We’ve done the same as Ohio. We have actually lengthened our hours of early voting. We have mail balloting. We’ve had record mail balloting this year. So we’re going to go ahead with it. But we’ve been extra careful at all of our polling places. Everybody is practicing good hygiene. And we’re making sure that it’s safe for people to come and vote. The schools are closed, so many people will be voting in schools. And there won’t be big crowds.

* Related…

* Chicago breaks World War II-era record for vote-by-mail applications; election officials encourage early voting: Chicago broke a World War II-era record for vote-by-mail applications, with 118,000 voters requesting ballots, she said. Those votes will count if envelopes are postmarked by Tuesday. As of Saturday, 125,000 Chicagoans had voted at one of the city’s more than 50 early voting locations, officials said.

* Press release: With growing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus Jim Oberweis is calling on Gov. Pritzker to take action to allow the elderly and other at-risk individuals to use curbside voting on Election Day instead of risking exposure to the coronavirus. Illinois laws allows for curbside voting for any “voter with a temporary or permanent disability who, because of structural features of the building in which the polling place is located, is unable to access or enter the polling place, may request that 2 judges of election of opposite party affiliation deliver a ballot to him or her at the point where he or she is unable to continue forward motion toward the polling place; but, in no case, shall a ballot be delivered to the voter beyond 50 feet of the entrance to the building in which the polling place is located (10 ILCS 5/17-13) (from Ch. 46, par. 17-13).”

* With coronavirus, how safe will voting be this Election Day?: Potentially late changes to polling locations, new hygiene protocols and even the amount some election judges are being paid are among the ways Tuesday’s primary will be different from many voters’ memories of casting a ballot due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

* Press release: Bernie 2020 announced today that it is ramping up its remote organizing program, making calls to more than 170,000 Illinoisans in a single day since the campaign shifted its organizing capacity to remote and digital formats. The campaign in Illinois received more than 1,000 sign ups for remote volunteer shifts in response to the campaign’s move to remote organizing.


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