GOTV: What Do You Need for Get Out The Vote?

by Sophie Thurber (She/Her)

Election straight ahead

GOTV is Your Friend (With Benefits)

GOTV matters. Campaigns require long hours, uncomfortable conversations about money and immense dedication from the candidate, staffers and volunteers.  After all the time and money you pour into a campaign (not to mention your sanity), it’s important to finish strong with a robust GOTV program.  Here are a few things to think about for Get Out The Vote as you plan your last push to the finish line:

1. What should a GOTV message say?

GOTV messaging should include the basic information a voter needs in order to vote, including the candidate’s name, the voter’s polling location, poll hours, numbers to call for a ride to the polls and numbers to call if there are problems at the polls.  If you’re operating in a state where voting laws have recently changed (specifically, I’m talking about those states that are being jerks about voter ID laws), that’s also helpful information to include.

2. When are lit drops a good idea?

Lit drops aren’t as effective as door knocking so you want to use them judiciously in your GOTV program.  That said, as time is limited, they’re a great way to communicate with voters who are likely to vote your way but could use a reminder.  Generally speaking, lit drops are your best GOTV option for high party performing wards.  As always, make sure that everyone knows that lit cannot be left in mailboxes.

3. Who should be on our canvassing list?

Your GOTV canvassing list should generally consist of ID’ed 1s and 2s.  The most important times for canvassing are right after work until the polls close (and over the weekend at appropriate times).  As always, your canvassers should be provided with good walk packets that include maps, a script, enough literature to pass out, clipboards and any other basic instructions that are relevant to the task at hand.

4. Does GOTV include early vote?

Early vote is here to stay, and your GOTV plan needs to take that into account.  Your voter turnout program should be timed to include early vote dates and voters who are permanent absentees.  If you miss these voters, you are likely missing a very large portion of your potential supporters.

5. Do you need GOTV mail?

If you’ve got it in your budget, layer in the mail.  As with other methods of communication, the timing here is everything.  Your mail should take into account any and all voting dates and it should include information about how to vote.  Another thing to consider in your mail program is positive social pressure.  This does not have to be a full-on big brother moment where you tell a voter you know their complete history.  It can be softer – for instance, we’ve had good success reminding people that early voting is convenient and they can sit back and relax knowing they’ve done their part.

6. Do you need GOTV phones?

Phones are integral to GOTV planning.  However you’re choosing to tackle phones (robocalls, paid live calls or more likely, volunteer calls), they should be a part of your voter turnout program.  If you’re using volunteers, figure out how many calls need to be made, how many phones you need and how many shifts need to be filled.  Make sure you provide scripts and instructions and schedule calls from the beginning of your GOTV program up until 10 minutes before the polls close.

7. Do you have a plan for visibility?

To be clear, visibility is icing.  Make sure you cover your bases with effective and efficient modes of voter contact like phones, canvassing and mail before you worry about visibility.  That said, it can be a great way to energize volunteers (especially if you’re lucky enough to have extras).  Choose high traffic corners for signs and target them during rush hour.

8. Do you have a plan for poll watchers?

Poll watching is volunteer intensive but allows campaigns to focus on supporters who haven’t yet voted.  Make sure you know the rules in advance and make sure any poll-watching volunteers are also apprised of the rules.

This is by no means a fully comprehensive list, and campaigns obviously vary, but it should provide you with a good starting place when you begin formulating that all-important GOTV plan.