Update > Get Out the Vote

Get Out the Vote


The Get out the Vote (GOTV) phase of an election brings together all the campaign work that has come before it. In a close election, a well-run GOTV plan can be very important in ensuring victory for the campaign. A well run Get Out the Vote Campaign builds on all previous voter contact efforts and is planned months in advance. GOTV plans vary widely from campaign to campaign, but the overall goal is the same: Make sure all supporters are identified and likely supporters vote.

GOTV activities involve making contact with those individuals who will definitely vote for the party and those who are very likely to vote for the party just before the election day to remind them and encourage them to vote (similar exercises can be done to get people to register to vote – often referred to as voter registration drives).

Political parties have a direct interest in increasing voter turnout. Citizens cannot cast votes from their homes. Not only must the supporters of a party register to vote, but they must go and vote on election day. If they don’t vote they cannot help the party win an election.

• Send letters

• Telephone (SMS)

• Place posters

• Place advertisements (in papers and on television and radio)

• Go door-to-door (NDI 2004: 41).

Before GOTV Can Begin

The months of work on the campaign plan all lead up to the final weeks of the campaign in the GOTV phase of the campaign. Because of this, a number of goals must have been achieved before GOTV even starts.

Many campaigns see GOTV planning as a process that begins near to the election. But well-run campaigns create their entire field plan with GOTV in mind from the beginning. The GOTV plan needs to be made with information gathered from months of work in the field program. The campaign plan needs to be built with GOTV considerations in mind.

The GOTV plan will make use of information such as the locations and characteristics of supporters and likely supporters. The GOTV plan will also need to prioritize groups of supporters and the areas they live in. Because of this, the field plan has to start with a goal to identify and/or persuade a certain number of supporters and it must track these supporters on a local level (e.g. ward/village tract).

In other words, the GOTV program relies on a list of supportive voters. Building this list is the job of the field program until GOTV begins. Once GOTV begins, the campaign is focused making sure that the people on that list will vote. If this list is incomplete by the time GOTV contact starts, the GOTV plan will be less effective (DFA 2008: 34).

Goal Setting and Targeting for GOTV

There are two targets for GOTV efforts: Identified supporters in swing constituencies and constituencies where most people will vote for their party

1) Identified supporters in swing constituencies

Most voter contact efforts should be targeted at ‘Swing’ constituencies (constituencies where 35%-65% of the voters are likely to vote for your party). Every supporter that a campaign identifies in a swing constituency should be placed in in GOTV target groups so that campaign staff can make sure that they vote.

In these areas where support is less sure, the campaign team will want to only remind those voters whom they know will support their candidate. It is therefore important to have spent time identifying which voters will support their candidate well in advance of the GOTV effort

Sometimes the campaign team will have to make an educated guess. The campaign team might discover (through research) that two-thirds of women under the age of 50 support their candidate. In this case, their GOTV plan would be wise to add all female voters under the age of 50 to the GOTV target groups. But they should not add in groups of voters to their GOTV target groups without reliable, objective information.

If done with reliable information, this strategy can be effective. It relies on having a detailed voter file (including age, race, sex, income, etc) and an objective source of quantifiable demographic inclinations.

2) Constituencies where most people will vote for their party

Campaign teams should focus on those constituencies where most people (65% or more) are expected to vote for their party. They spent time early in the campaign building support in these areas, but paid far more attention to the swing constituencies for most of the rest of the campaign. In the GOTV stage, the campaign team should focus again on their supporters (DFA 2008: 34).

In areas where a candidate has considerable support (e.g. where six out of every ten voters will vote for them) it is not necessary to identify supporters. In these areas, the campaign team will know that the more voters they remind about Election Day and make sure that they vote that their candidate, they will receive the majority of the votes. In these areas campaign teams can organize what is called a “blind pull” of voters or pulling everyone to the polls regardless of whether or not they know whom they are supporting (NDI 2009: 38).

Seven Principles for Getting Out the Vote

1. Make it personal. Voter mobilization research shows that people are more likely to participate when contacted personally by someone they know. Voters respond best to other people, especially friends, neighbors, and community-based agencies that are familiar and trusted. Rather than focusing on impersonal handouts or mass emails, look for opportunities to initiate conversations about voting while delivering services, in meetings, on the phone, or at trainings and events.

2. Make it easy. Voters can let little things keep them from the polls. Not having basic information about the election—like when the polls are open, how to find your polling location if you’ve recently moved, or what kind of identification is neces- sary—can create participation barriers.

3. Competition counts. Competition drives turnout. Voters respond when they think that an election is competitive or high profile. You can encourage this by raising awareness about closely contested candidate races.

4. Timing is everything. Get-out-the-vote efforts have the greatest impact in the final weeks and days leading up to the election when voters who are less likely to turn out pay more attention. Then increase the intensity of the campaign in the final week and on Election Day itself.

5. Picture it. People are more likely to vote if they visualize their plan to do so. What time will they head to the polls on Election Day? Ask people to think specifi- cally about when and how they plan to vote.

6. The power of positivity. Negative messaging—like “If you don’t vote, don’t com- plain”—or calls to civic duty without additional information about the election can be confusing and counterproductive. Use positive messages that encourage people to vote by connecting the election back to your community’s future and your party’s message.

7. Raising the stakes. Voters respond to urgency. If the election seems important, people are more likely to turn out because they believe that their vote will make a difference, benefit them, or avoid negative results. Use your party’s message and core issues to highlight what’s at stake.

Source: http://www.nonprofitvote.org/documents/2012/04/seven-principles-of-get- ting-out-the-vote.pdf