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Get Out The Vote Definition, Process and Strategies

Published: Oct 10, 2017

Get Out The Vote Definition

Get Out The Vote or GOTV describes campaign activities performed to get people out to vote on election day. GOTV efforts involve phone calls, SMS text messages, in-person meetings, social media channels and other tools that helps campaigns reach a large audience in a short duration to prompt them to turn out to vote.

Get Out The Vote efforts can generally be classified into two:

(1) GOTV activities carried out by nonpartisan organizations aimed at increasing voter turnout regardless of party identification.

(2) Targeted GOTV efforts by partisan groups such as election campaigns, PACs and cause based organizations for getting identified supporters out to vote.

GOTV Process

Get out the vote efforts form the final stage of an election cycle. Before starting GOTV activities, campaigns will have completed voter identification drives and persuasion efforts followed by voter registration drives to get supporters registered on the voter list.

Five to six weeks before election day (depending on the size of the campaign), campaigners reach out to supporters through phone, text, direct mail, and/or door-to-door canvasses to urge them to turn out to vote. GOTV efforts leave out voter persuasion and are focused solely on increasing voter turnout with supporters. For states with early voting, GOTV efforts start earlier. Check out this infographic below which gives a good idea of when you should be doing different GOTV activities on a weekly basis right until Election Day.

GOTV Timeline Infographic

Need for GOTV

Many campaigns spend a considerable amount of time and resources building up voter support during the initial days of a campaign. For campaigns that have racked up considerable support before election day, it can be easy to take the votes of supporters for granted. But studies have shown that effective voter mobilization is essential to getting people (even ardent supporters) out to vote. While many of a campaign’s supporters will present themselves at the polling station without GOTV efforts, the tides of an election often rest on the small percentage who would otherwise not show up to vote. GOTV efforts give first priority to strong supporters, making sure each one of them gets out the vote. This is followed by targeting swing voters who lean towards the candidate all the while making sure (for partisan GOTV efforts) that supporters from across party lines are not contacted.

GOTV Strategies

Switch to automated dialers for contacting landlines

Phone conversations usually take up time, which is exactly what campaigns run short of during the GOTV phase. Automated dialers let you speed up the calling process by taking care of dialing, skipping through bad numbers and even syncing with the campaign database to bring in voter data. Phone bankers usually talk to 15 to 20 people when they are manually dialing numbers from a call list. Compare that to around 40 conversations with an automated dialer, and you’re effectively talking to double the number of supporters in the same time frame. Organizations like OFC have observed upto 7% increase in voter turnout through the right use of automated dialers.

Note: TCPA regulations only allow you to call landline numbers using an automated dialer. For calling cellphones, use tools like Collective Calling or the VAN VPB, where campaign volunteers dial from their phone with voter data is displayed and collected on-screen.

Try it for free.

Go Face to face when you have a large volunteer base

Door to door canvassing has been a staple of GOTV efforts and they are still the most effective way to increase voter turnout. If you have a solid intake of volunteers to your campaign, have them go out into the community and knock on doors to get people to turn out to vote. Apps like Ecanvasser and MiniVAN can help you in the process to optimize your canvassing efforts.

These tips we’ve put together for political canvassers will help too.

Use texts to connect to supporters with cellphone numbers

In the days running up to election day, it’s often a mad scramble to contact every supporter and get them to turn in their vote. This involves GOTV reminders, making sure people know their polling location, arranging transportation facilities and so on. A constant back and forth between a supporter and the campaign goes a long way in ensuring final turnout. That’s hard to accomplish with phone calls and even harder with door to door canvasses. Text messages, on the other hand allow campaign volunteers to interact with around 1500 supporters in the span of an hour. When voters feel like they have a point of contact at the campaign who they can reach out to for any information whatsoever, your chances of securing the vote shoots up.

For a better idea of how peer to peer texting works check out the GOTV guide.

In a follow-up article on Voter Turnout, we’ve covered how you can leverage social proof, the advantages of repeated personal contact and other strategies used to increase voter turnout. Read it here.

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