GOTV – What is it?
GREAT resource: Head to New Organizing Institute’s GOTV center: http://neworganizing.com/content/page/gotv
Organizer’s Guide to Election Administration: Rules and Special Circumstances, sourced, by state: http://elections.neworganizing.com/en/guide/
WHAT IS GOTV ANYWAY?
GOTV is the acronym for “Get Out The Vote.”
GOTV is the highly organized and targeted process of turning out voters who
a) support the mission of your organization and
b) would not otherwise vote without your program.
GOTV is about building power so that our communities are heard
Those who have power to make decisions about our lives will continue to ignore our members and our organization until we demonstrate real power. That includes our economic power, social power and political power.
When voter registration is complete, it is time to demonstrate your organization’s power by mobilizing and moving these new registered voters and other unlikely voters who support our mission to get out and vote.
When does GOTV start? How long does it last?
GOTV generally starts 2-3 weeks before Election Day and ends when the polls close.
The first phase involves door-to-door canvassing and phone calls to identify our voters, turn them out to early vote and recruit Election Day volunteers, followed by two dry runs to prepare your organizers & volunteer leaders for Election Day.
The second phase is the real deal—Election Day!
How do we define success for our GOTV program?
- Meet our vote goals. Turn out the number of votes determined by our Field Director in order to demonstrate power to elected officials and throughout the community after the election.
- Organized and structured implementation of our GOTV plan (Meet volunteer recruitment, leadership development, and voter contact goals).
The Voter Blitz
The key to GOTV efforts is contact. Your goal is to make sure that each and every supporter that you have identified actually makes it to the polls on Election Day. No later than four or five days before the election, your campaign should begin its “voter blitz.” While all aspects of the campaign are involved in this blitz, your get out the vote operation will be crucial to its success. Your team should begin to take steps to contact each voter you have identified as a supporter and motivate them to go out and vote for your candidate. Each supporter should be contacted at least once, though if you have the manpower or money to do so, contacting each supporter 2-3 times would be beneficial.
There are several different ways your campaign can go about contacting these supporters. You can operate a phone bank (volunteer or professional) that calls each supporter to remind them to go vote on Election Day. You can organize literature drops and door-to-door visits to get out the vote, and mail out direct mail pieces that reinforce your message. The best option is to utilize several different methods to reach each supporter numerous times.
No matter what method you choose, your message to the voter is the same: Please remember to vote for our candidate on Election Day. Remind the voter when Election Day is, and if possible, tell the voter where their polling place is. Do whatever you can to make it easier for your supporters to go vote. If you are able, offer rides to the polls, vans taking senior citizens from the local nursing home, baby-sitting services and maps to the polling places.
Election Day Operations
On Election Day, your campaign should have a team of volunteers and staff in place to keep track of which supporters have gone to the polls. Every polling place should be staffed with at least one person from your campaign. Be sure to check local regulations on what these “poll watchers” are and are not allowed to do once near the polls. Generally, they will not be allowed to campaign in any way, only observe.
Your poll watchers should have a list of all supporters you have identified who will vote at that polling place. As the voters come in to vote, the election officials will ask for their names and mark them off on the official registers. Your poll watchers should listen as well and mark down each supporter as he or she comes to vote. Your campaign will want to remind supporters who have not gone to the polls yet to go out and vote.
Your campaign should have a system in place for relaying information from the poll watchers to the campaign headquarters. (If the district is large, there may be several regional headquarters set up in supporters’ homes and offices around the district). One way to do this is to have a volunteer who drives from polling place to polling place and collects the names of supporters who have gone to the polls so that they can me marked on the master list. The campaign should have phone banks in place to contact voters who have not gone to the polls and volunteers to go knocking on supporters’ doors reminding them to vote.
Don’t worry about contacting a voter “too often.” Common sense should prevail (don’t call a supporter at 7am on Election Day telling them to get out of bed and go vote), but it is fine if a supporter is reminded to go vote several times on Election Day. The campaign should begin making phone calls and visits to remind supporters to vote before lunch time, and should continue making calls right up until the polls close. Remember: each and every vote puts your campaign closer to victory.
Get out the vote campaigns are an essential component of victory for your candidate. By identifying supporters, reminding them to go vote, making it easy for them to go to the polls and keeping track of who has gone to vote, your campaign can organize an Election Day effort that will help put your campaign, and your candidate, over the top.