DEVELOP A GOTV PLAN FOR EARLY VOTING AND ELECTION DAY.
Will You Choke on the One-Yard Line or Power into the End Zone?
It’s sad but true, but I’d be willing to bet the farm on the fact that 65% of the political campaigns on the Republican side of the aisle DON’T invest any significant time or resources on a formal Get Out The Vote effort.
Why would you spend thousands of dollars in a political campaign and not perform a very basic function of campaigns – ask your supporters to go to the polls? Again, I would wager that most campaigns don’t know who their supporters are because they didn’t invest the resources to systematically identify the vote during the campaign
Voter ID is Essential to Turning Out Your Vote
From the very beginning stages of the campaign, you need to build integrated systems (read Principle #5) and processes so that you are systematically, relentlessly – yes even, ruthlessly – identifying your vote.
You need more than a paid ID phone call two weeks out to identify your vote. Tactics to identify voter preferences should be built into the campaign DNA so that door canvassing, volunteer calls, direct mail programs, online and social media platforms are all avenues that allow voters to identify who they favor in the campaign
I hope you’re reading this well in advance of Election Day so you have the time to correct the fatal mistake that most campaigns make. You can either choke on the one-yard line (because you don’t know who to turnout on Election Day) or you can power into early voting and Election Day with power and confidence because you have vote goals and you know exactly who to turn out to vote.
Know the Rules for Absentee and Early Voting
In the past, most campaigns focused their time and resources on turning out the vote on Election Day. No more! In the 2012 elections, roughly 35% of all votes cast – were cast prior to Election Day.
Can you afford to ignore 35% of your voter universe AND continue to spend campaign dollars on voters even though they voted prior to Election Day?
The point is, there is a growing percentage of your voters who have to be identified and persuaded prior to Election Day and the best way to do that is take advantage of the process.
Most state voter files identify voters who regularly participate in early voting (EV) or absentee voting (AV). Know the EV and AV rules and deadlines in your state and incorporate them into your GOTV plan.
BANK VOTES! Persuade Your Supporters to Vote Early.
Most successful campaigns now have sophisticated GOTV campaigns for people who regularly participate in AV/EV voting and for their supporters.
Think about it. If you’ve done your job and built an expansive list of supporters, why wouldn’t you persuade them to get out and vote EV/AV. It allows you to bank votes early – AND stop spending scarce resources on voters who’ve already voted for you.
Are You Going Through the Motions with Your GOTV Plan?
Please don’t be like most of the campaigns out there. Spend the time and energy to envision, build AND execute a GOTV program. Don’t go through the motions like a majority of the campaigns out there. Everyone talks about GOTV – it rolls effortlessly of the tongues of most campaign operatives. Executing GOTV programs, however, are much harder to do.
To help you jump-start your planning for early voting and Election Day GOTV, here are some thoughts on key components of GOTV:
Early voting programs – Get the dates and deadlines for AV/EV and build them into your master calendar. Know the rules inside and out so you can master the process. Check with your election clerks. Prior to actual AV/EV begins, you may be able to get a list of people who have requested absentee ballots so you can execute your GOTV canvassing, call and mail programs.
Pre-Election Day programs – Starting 2-3 weeks from Election Day you should begin executing your canvassing, call and mail programs for your committed supporters. Remind them of the upcoming election and their commitment to vote for your candidate. While you’re doing neighborhood canvassing, you should have a list of undecided voters so you can reach them with persuasion materials.
In terms of priorities, neighborhood canvassing is the most effective GOTV tactic. Next comes personal phone calls from the candidate. Mail and advocacy phones should be prioritized after canvassing.
Precinct operations on Election Day – On Election Day, your goal is to have a presence at every precinct voting location. If your district is too large to have every precinct covered by paid staff and/or volunteers, you should have AT LEAST your targeted precincts covered. Here’s what you want to accomplish at each polling location:
- Mark off Supporters who have voted. In order to maximize your Election Day activities, you need to have a system for excising voters’ names who’ve cast their ballot from your turnout list. If a supporter has already voted, there’s no reason to continue bugging them. Having a poll watcher record supporters names as they check in at their polling location and send that info to campaign HQ’s allows the campaign to focus on supporters who haven’t yet voted.
- “Knock and drag” operations – while this term harkens back to the day of union GOTV activities, the premise of the operation is very relevant. You should organize a regiment of canvassers who knock on supporters’ doors (who haven’t voted) and do everything short of dragging them to the polls. You could simply make an appeal for them to vote or you could offer voters a ride to the polls. Nothing creates a sense of urgency like having a campaign volunteer show up on your door step begging you to go vote.
- Last Minute Visibility. Most voters are apathetic. If you’re a down-ballot race, name ID is very critical. Having that last minute visual of the candidates sign outside the polling location could be a tipping point for a supporter.
- Prevent Election Fraud. Having a vocal and visible presence at the polls is often enough to keep election fraud from occurring. You can often work with poll managers to inspect voter identification cards and challenge voters who you suspect of engaging in fraud.
There are a lot of moving parts in a sophisticated GOTV operation. Start early – like RIGHT NOW! Build voter identification into your campaign programs. Know the dates and the rules of early and absentee voting. Design GOTV programs that emphasize personal contact and then feather in your phones and mail.
There’s a lot of work, but if you do the hard work of planning and executing high-quality GOTV work, you will stack the odds in your favor on Election Day.
IT’S YOUR TURN
Its time to envision your campaign’s GOTV program. Here are a few exercises to help you get started.
• Sketch out 5-10 ideas on how you can build in voter identification into your campaign tactics.
• Spend at least one hour researching your states absentee and early voting rules and dates/deadlines. Put dates on the master calendar and set up a folder to archive all the rules.
• Pull a list of precincts. Confirm the location and address of the polling places. Start a master volunteer list for Election Day so you have the bodies to cover all your precincts.