Tips for Your Election Day Stress Test

by Ben Holse (He/Him)

Stress ball

Election Day: Don't Stress, Just Test!

Before Election Day it’s important that you have a chance to test your campaign’s ground operation. After all, even the best-laid plans can go awry. Testing ensures that your organization can maintain its composure under pressure and gives you an opportunity to iron out any snags before the big day. The best way to test your operation is by creating an Election Day stress test that simulates your operation on the big day.

In order for a stress test to be effective, you will need to treat it as if it were actually Election Day. Thus, like E-Day, it will require a lot of prep work to pull off. You should schedule your stress test approximately 3 weeks before Election Day and fire up your volunteers for their trial run a few weeks before. Try to schedule roughly the same number of volunteer shifts for the stress test that you plan to have on Election Day. Be sure all the volunteer leaders you will use are trained, present, and ready. Also, if you plan to use outside areas as phone banks or staging locations on Election Day, ask to use them during the stress test as well.

One area that is particularly important to assess during the stress test is your operation’s chain of command. Early in the campaign, it really doesn’t matter all that much who a volunteer goes to with their issue. However, under the stress of Election Day it’s critical that a canvass captain isn’t coming to the campaign manager for more clipboards. Make sure volunteer leaders and campaign staff know their chain of command and that they have all the appropriate contact information easily at their disposal for the stress test.

A second area that should be carefully evaluated during the stress test is your operation’s reporting structure. This is the method by which your team will collect and update metrics on Election Day. With a good reporting structure in place, a campaign can make quick and efficient decisions regarding resource allocation during the chaos of Election Day. Unfortunately, volunteer leaders can sometimes have difficulty seeing the big picture and may overlook reporting structures. Therefore, prior to the stress test, it’s important that your team is familiar with the reporting structure and that maintaining its integrity could mean the difference between a group of supporters getting a ride to the polls or not.

After the stress test, set up a conference call with your team and debrief them on what went right, what could have gone better, and ask them to share any best practices. Work with your team over the remaining weeks to make necessary adjustments and reinforce your strengths. In addition to making your organization stronger, the lessons learned from the election day stress test should give your team confidence, a sense of purpose, and make everyone’s life a bit less strenuous on E-Day.