Voting Absentee During COVID-19; Interview with Eric Wilson

Norm Leahy, columnist with The Washington Post, and I look at absentee voting in the age of the Coronavirus, rethinking the state budget, and the 7th District Congressional Race. The interview is with Eric Wilson, a digital communications strategist and candidate for the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee. We talk about an initiative he is working on, “Build and Grow RPV.”

“Virginia should be the center of excellence for state parties across the country. It should be a testbed for our party because we have elections every single year. That’s a perfect environment…for innovating, for testing, and learning. But we’ve just sort of grown stagnant.” – Eric Wilson

Show Notes:

I asked Mary Lynn Pinkerman, General Registrar, City of Chesapeake several questions related to the city’s preparation for the upcoming May election.

1 – Absentee voting began March 20 – does the pace in Chesapeake indicate a higher turnout than regular years?

  • Yes, but we have worked with Public Communications to get the word out to vote absentee by mail.  The Department of Elections website also is encouraging this as well.

2 – How many ballots have been requested and returned to date?

  • 1664 [have been requested]. It is still so early as the ballots have only been mailed within the past 10 days, so we have only had 58 returned so far.

3 – Has the city taken any measures to increase the number of ballots available?

  • We are reallocating ballots from Election Day to Absentee to reduce the waste of funds.

Has the budget been increased?

  • No

Are you getting any additional financial support from the state?

  • No

4 – Do you have any different procedures in place than you would for a normal election?

  • Yes. We are waiting to hear more information in the next couple of days from the Department of Elections as to how to proceed on Election Day.  Because the City of Chesapeake offices are closed to the public, we are having to do curbside voting for all voters who come to do in-person absentee voting.  We want that to be a last resort, and for voters to please use the online and mail options as much as possible for their safety as well as the staff.

Senate Republicans again reiterated their concern about the budget in a letter to Governor Northam:

Provided the June 10 expiration of Executive Order 55 remains operative, most of Virginia’s economy will have been shut down for a three-month period. With a profoundly negative effect on anticipated state revenues inevitable, it would be fiscally reckless to enact House Bills 29 and 30 without extensive revisions reflecting the expected shortfall. As the April 11 deadline for amending the 2018-2020 and 2020-2022 Biennial Budgets is now less than two weeks away, we urge you to submit amendments that accurately reflect our new fiscal reality. By using the 2018-2020 Biennial Budget – as originally enacted in 2018 – as a baseline, we could significantly minimize the disruptions to the Commonwealth and its citizens resulting from the current suspension of economic activity.

In my interview with Eric Wilson, we discuss:

  • Going from Texas to Capitol Hill (intern for Rep. Michael Burgess)
  • Working on campaigns with Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn
  • Working on the Marco Rubio for President campaign and the difficulties of running a national campaign, learning the need for 100% name identification, and politics as entertainment (consumption)
  • The importance of resources in a state race and the skill of Virginia candidates across the board
  • Why digital media appeals and the importance of the medium?
  • Why engage with new/social media?
  • The importance of platform tools. Understand the “why”.
  • Defining “owned”, “shared”, and “earned” audiences/media.
  • Vanity v. Value/Outputs v. Outcome Metrics.
  • His platform for wanting to become a Republican State Central Committee member. (grow the party, grow the data, increase online fundraising, stop the interparty feuds).
  • The importance of running a candidate everywhere.
  • Improving voter registration.
  • Conventions and primaries in nominating contests.
  • Internal party campaigning in the COVID-19 era.
  • What should happen if we have an online convention? What are the two phases of digital transformation?
  • His campaign/ticket mates for state central committee: Jack Blakely and Sarah Curran.
  • What does RPV reform look like?
  • Not accepting demographic shifts as an answer to GOP losses.
  • His vision for the party in 1 to 5 years.

Sites referenced:

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