How to Get Out the Vote (GOTV)

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Graphic design by Milton Glaser

In order to win an election, a candidate must turn out more of their voters than their opponent. That’s why Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts are so important.

A successful GOTV campaign is, of course, predicated on how well the campaign has already raised awareness of the candidate/issue and identified its strongest supporters. So, if you want to help your candidate win their election, by all means get involved in the final week to GOTV, but do one better by being involved with the campaign in the MONTHS leading up to the election.

GOTV in the final week leading up to AND ON election day, is all about motivating the people you know support your candidate to actually go to the polls and vote.

In order of effectiveness, you can contact them through:
     1. Door to door visits
     2. Phone calls & texts
     3. Getting literature to them (direct mail or dropping it off at their home)

The more personal it is, the better. Research backs this up. Voters respond to conversations with neighbors, friends, or community organizations they know and trust. Mass emails, texts, robo calls just don’t have the same effectiveness.

This is what they need to hear from you:
     1. Remind them when the election is.
     2. Confirm where their polling location is.
     3. Get them to make a voting plan. 

Research studies out of Stanford University concluded that getting a voter to figure out and visualize how exactly they’d vote made a demonstrable difference in turnout. Ask them what time they’ll go, how they’ll get to the polls, what they’ll be doing right before that time, etc.

The specific words you use can also have an impact on turnout. Experiments showed that saying “How important is it to you to be a voter in the upcoming election?” is better than “How important is it to you to vote in the upcoming election?” because having people identify as a voter (noun) was more powerful than responding to something they do or don’t do (verb).

Supporters also respond more positively when they feel the election is urgent (why is THIS election so important?) or when they think a race is competitive. Be sure to convey this to your supporters. This holds especially true for low participation voters — those voters that vote infrequently. They appear to be motivated when they hear turnout will be high.

One last tip. Work with your candidate’s campaign to offer rides to the polls on election day whenever possible.

TAKE ACTION: Now that you know what to do, go get in touch with your favorite candidates’ campaigns. Go to their website, call or walk into their office — tell them you’re ready to help them GOTV!

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Categories: Explainers

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