Voter contact, aka field organizing or political lobbying, is the process of going on-field and having personal interactions with supporters and voters. The aim is to get prospects excited about your candidacy and for supporters to vote for you on election day.
Reaching out to thousands of voters in such a manner and mobilizing them requires diligent planning. In this post, we discuss how to formulate a voter contact plan for ample turnout.
Step-by-step voter contact plan
Lisa García Bedolla, a political science scholar, says that a good turnout requires voter contact that is
- At the door or over the phone,
- With a trusted agent,
- Who conveys a message that resonates with the target voter.
Such meaningful contact requires a carefully calculated voter contact universe, properly planned nurturing efforts and effective communication methods. Here are the steps to follow:
- Calculate your voter contact universe
- Determine your target voters
- Divide these target voters by geography and demography
- Create a timeline for voter contact
- First contact
- Create a voter contact card
- Second contact: Voter persuasion
- Final contact: GOTV
- Encore: Final nudges for undetermined voters
Let’s look at each step in detail.
Calculate your voter contact universe
The voter contact universe consists of projected voter turnout, your win number, your voter base percentage, and voter gap (if the voter base percent is below 50%). Here’s how to calculate the universe:
Step 1: Calculate projected voter turnout (say you’re contesting in 2022)
(Turnout in 2016 + turnout in 2018 + turnout in 2020) ÷ 3
Note: All history must be calculated from the same electorate, same election type as you are contesting.
Step 2: Win number
Marginal victory: Projected voter turnout x (50/100 or 0.50) +1.
Comfortable victory: Projected voter turnout x (52/100 or 0.52).
Step 3: Projected voter base in percentage
- 2016 voter base ÷ 2016 total votes x 100 = A
- 2018 voter base ÷ 2018 total votes x 100 = B
- 2020 voter base ÷ 2020 total votes x 100 = C
(A+B+C) ÷ 3 = Projected voter base in percentage
Step 4: Voter Gap (if voter base percentage < 52%)
Projected turnout x Voter Base = Projected party turnout.
Win number – Projected party turnout = Voter gap.
Determine your target voters
Once you know the number of votes you require to win and if the current projections achieve that target, the next step is to determine your target voters. These are electors selected from the support level of
- Swing voters
- Opponent voters
And categories of
- Regular voters
- Sporadic voters
- Consistent non-voters
For instance, if your projected voter percentage is less than 52%, you must dig more into swing voters and sporadic voters and persuade them to vote for you. If the voter gap is 0 (or in negative), you can comfortably focus more on supporters and consistent voters. Here’s a helpful table to determine which voters you must target and which ones should be left out.
|Consistently support||Swing voters||Consistently oppose|
|Regular voters||Voting supporters||Can vote if persuaded||Will vote opponent|
|Sporadic voters||Presidential voting supporters||May or may not vote||If they vote, they’ll vote opponent|
|Consistent non-voters||Will not vote||Unlikely to vote (Can be low priority targets when voter gap is huge)||Will either not vote or vote opponent|
Divide target voters by geography and demography
When you know the individuals or groups to target for voter contact, you need to further divide them by geography and demographics.
The geographical division helps you cut turf, zero in on supporting or swing precincts and neighbourhoods and estimate turnout percent by locality.
The demographic division helps you understand the groups and, by relation, the lobby groups, political advocacy groups, nonprofits and other organizations you can target for efficient voter contact.
Here are some metrics to divide your target voters:
|Geography metrics||Demography metrics|
|Average turnout percent|
Expected vote (number or percent)
Historical party performance
High party performance precincts
Low party performance precincts
(Mark high, low and swing performance for each category).
Create a timeline for voter contact
By now, you have a clear idea of the voter contact targets, where they are and what group they belong to. You also know if you are lagging behind your win number or expect a comfortable victory. Together, these elements dictate your timeline for voter contact.
This calculation and division of target voters will inform how intense and frequent your voter contact number should be. For instance, if the voter gap is huge and a substantial number of individuals fall under the sporadic and swing voter category, you must contact them regularly and deliver messages that best suit their interest.
Here’s how the reverse planning typically goes:
Calculate the days required under each activity (voter identification, first contact, nurturing, persuasion and GOTV). The above table gives an estimate of the ratio of each activity. Once you have the dates and days fixed, the actual groundwork for voter contact begins.
Your first contact with a voter typically involves a literature drop, a broadcast message or a phone call. This generally is a “cold technique” where the aim is to get your foot in the door. A cold voter contact technique has a fleeting impact on voters. They do not keep thinking about the interaction for long.
This first contact is used to:
- Introduce the candidate and campaign.
- Check for voter registration.
- Voter identification.
- Get them subscribed to or opted in for future messages.
The first contact with voters must give you adequate information about the individual’s candidate preference and how intense the nurturing must be. Remember the target voters we calculated earlier? This initial contact will help you put the person in relevant categories and divisions.
Create a voter contact card
The voter contact card is sort of a report card for every individual canvassed. Agents must fill out these campaign cards for every voter, supporter and other individuals they canvass. The card must include:
|Personal Details||Support level||Whether Requires|
|Name||Party affiliation||More information|
|Address||Whether planning to vote||Nurturing|
|Phone and mobile number||Projected vote for you (on a scale of 0-5)||Absentee ballot|
|Email ID||Whether registered to vote||Help on election day (mention details)|
|Polling district||Open to volunteering||Additional remarks/notes|
|Open to canvassing or phone banking|
Once the cards (paper or online) are filled, you can import them into your CRM and sync them with your phone banking and text marketing tool. CallHub integrates with several political CRMs and gets your data on the communication tool for informed, intelligent voter contact. Try it for free here.
Second contact: Persuasion
The second voter contact stands firmly on the results of the first one. It dictates the method, messaging and intensity of persuasion for each voter.
Note that second contact doesn’t necessarily mean a single touchpoint. Rather, it’s a nurturing process incorporating the different requirements of a single voter and addressing them via text, phone call, email, social media or other means of communication.
Here’s an intensity of persuasion to follow for the second contact (on a scale of 0 to 5; 0 being no contact and 5 being most frequent contact, with all touchpoints and most diverse messaging.):
- 0-1: For non-voters and opponent voters.
- 2-3: For supporters and voters.
- 4-5: For swing voters and sporadic supporters.
Pro-tip: A good voter contact plan encourages early voting as a practice and viable option for those unable to step out to their polling station on election day. Begin pushing this message from the second contact.
Messaging surrounding early voting must begin at least ten days before registrations open and must be carried in your text messages, social media posts, emails and other forms of voter contact.
For state-wise early voting start and end date, click here.
Final Contact: GOTV
As the election day draws close, your voter contact takes the form of GOTV; slogans, messaging, and communication methods are all designed to encourage supporters to step out and vote.
GOTV efforts typically start a week before the election day and end the day before. These efforts entail:
- Phone banking and text messages confirming supporters’ will to vote.
- Getting commitment cards signed.
- Door knocking by volunteers.
- Updating data on voter files.
- Collecting information on what voters need on election day (e.g., transportation).
This final lap of voter contact is your make or break chance to motivate supporters to vote. For effective tactics and tools that help you with GOTV efforts, read Get Out the Vote: Research-backed strategies and tools to increase voter turnout.
Encore: Final nudges for undetermined voters
In some cases, supporters will still not be motivated enough to vote on election day. The reasons could be numerous:
- They didn’t get enough nudges.
- Domestic or personal roadblocks (e.g., no babysitter or no transportation).
- They feel like their vote doesn’t matter.
While ideally, you must address these concerns throughout your GOTV efforts, don’t lose hope until the polling booths close. Even the day before or on the day of the election, you have a window for final GOTV nudges. The best ways to do this on a scale are:
Vote contact is a crucial part of your campaign. It plays a huge role not only in increasing your voter turnout. While this plan attempts to map out your target audiences and touchpoints carefully, we understand that the last phase emits more pressure. You require the most efficient strategies to ensure success in GOTV efforts. Last minute tips for GOTV (Phone script included!)
Feature image source: Alexis Brown/Unsplash.