Both political parties have shifted to focus on online voter outreach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking this morning with reporters on a conference call, State Dem Party Chair Ben Wikler said he believes the change can have a “dramatic and significant impact” on turnout ahead of the April 7 election. The party announced the shift in approach on Thursday,

“This is a good time to do social media and online organizing to get information out to voters about how to request an absentee ballot online,” he said.

Wikler also said the state Dem Party planned to do voter outreach through phone calls, text messages and other tools that don’t require internet access.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee on Friday unveiled a number of digital tools to continue campaigning online. They include: virtual events with top surrogates, online training for Trump Neighborhood Teams, voter outreach via telephone and increased online voter registration efforts for those who previously attended Trump rallies but are not registered to vote.

Wikler said no study looking into the effectiveness of different forms of voter outreach during a pandemic had been completed. But he stressed the importance of organizers talking to people within their communities, even if those interactions were online.

He also noted there likely “millions” of people across the state who “will have a great deal of time on their hands and unable to attend public events that might normally occupy their evening hours.”

Still, Wikler said it would be difficult to gauge what turnout will look like.

“The election is 22 days from now,” he said. “If you think back 22 days, it would have been impossible to predict (how COVID-19 has developed).”

He urged both voters and candidates to “contingency plan for all eventuality” and share “concrete information about how voters, activists, volunteers, and candidates can stay safe and continue their work.”

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