Pandemic politics: Nevada candidates go digital to reach voters


John Sadler, a political reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, wrote an article on Sam Peters and his ability to do online virtual town halls to connect with supporters.
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Sadler wrote:

Sam Peters is running for Congress in Nevada. At this moment, however, he’s focused on getting his Facetime Live feed up and running for a virtual town hall meeting.

“Can you see me now, Kim?” Peters says to someone on the other side of the internet divide. “I hope so.”

Peters sets his screen up, thanks a few of the virtual participants and sends out a call for questions. The town hall, up and running, quickly becomes politics as usual. Peters thanks attendees, discusses policy ideas and takes questions from viewers.

In these times of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, politicians are having to get creative to reach voters.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, big rallies, barbecues, shaking hands and holding — let alone kissing — babies are out of the question.

Peters, a Republican seeking the 4th Congressional District seat held by Democrat Steven Horsford, said his campaign had pulled back from live town halls and knocking on doors.

“We’ve transitioned a little bit into campaigning in different ways, and this being one of the great ways to do it,” Peters said before launching into his online forum April 13.

Nevada’s June 9 primary election will decide nominees for positions including congressional and state legislative seats.

Because of the pandemic, which has infected more than 3,200 people and claimed at least 137 lives in Nevada as of Wednesday, voting will be conducted mainly via mail, with one in-person polling location per county.

“Everything is turned upside down,” Peters said. “Our campaign has adjusted and we’re going strong.”

Peters’ campaign is focusing heavily on making telephone calls and reaching people via social media, with plans for several live broadcasts a week.

The state’s political parties are also scrambling to adapt to politics amid a pandemic.

Molly Forgey, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Democratic Party, said organizers were conducting meetings with volunteers over video conferencing programs like Zoom.

Typically, volunteers would be out talking to prospective voters at places like grocery stores and libraries and helping register them to vote, she said. Now they are more busy working the phones.

“What we’ve done is added those resources to our website to let folks know how they can register online, or if they don’t have access to the internet, how they can request a form and have that mailed to them,” Forgey said.

The state Republican Party has moved to Zoom meetings and Google Hangouts for volunteer training as well.

A recent nationwide “day of action,” a monthly voter outreach event, reached about 1.4 million voters, including 100,000 in Nevada, said Keith Schipper, a spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s campaign in Nevada. It was done entirely virtually.

“We have the manpower and we have an operation that is fully prepared to campaign, whether it be in person or online,” Schipper said.