Get Out the Vote (GOTV): Increase Election Turnout

We’ve gotten a few questions from fans about political campaign get-out-the-vote efforts (referred to as GOTV among savvy campaigners) and what kind of tactics work to increase voter turnout in local elections. GOTV is the kind of topic that will take many posts to cover properly, but let’s talk about increasing voter turnout.

get out the vote gotvAs a proud American who believes that we should all practice our civic duty and get out to vote one election day, I would love nothing more than to see every eligible voter get to the polls each year. As a political candidate in a local election, though, you need to realize something very important: a higher voter turnout is not necessarily going to be good for you. In fact, if the majority of voters are not inclined to support you, then you probably shouldn’t be working to get as many people as you can to show up and vote.

The trick to effective GOTV efforts isn’t in increasing the overall voter turnout, necessarily, but rather in increasing the overall turnout of voters who you know are likely to support you. There are several ways to identify these groups of likely supporters, but the most reliable way to do so is by their political party.

Although most Americans simply don’t like partisanship in politics–especially on a local level–it remains an unfortunate fact that the main criteria that most voters use when choosing a candidate on the ballot is this: what letter they have next to their names. A Democrat is much more likely to vote for you if there is a “D” on the ballot next to your name, and a Republican is more likely to vote for you if you have an “R” next to your name.

Another depressing fact: regardless of how hard you work in your political campaign, there is still going to be a chunk of the electorate that will have no idea who you are when they go to vote (take my work for it). This disconnected group of voters is going to be much more likely to simply vote for every candidate on the ballot who is a member of their party . . . which is all the more reason for you to make sure your GOTV efforts are concentrated on increasing the turnout of your party’s voters.

We’ve talked in other posts about creating targeted voter lists in your local election and how to figure out which voters are most likely to show up at the polls. These targeted voter lists always include “super voters,” or people who cast a ballot in every single election regardless of how little general interest in it.

With GOTV efforts, your targeted list is going to be a bit different. The literature you’re going to send to your GOTV list is going to be a bit more partisan and more likely to appeal to people in your respective party, since you won’t be reaching out to any voters from the competing party. Your partisan GOTV materials don’t need to have a negative tone or play to any political stereotypes, but they should be fashioned in a way that makes these voters identify you with their political party.

Additionally, GOTV efforts need to let voters in your party know that it’s vital for them to get to the polls, regardless of how insignificant the election might seem to them. These voters need to have an active interest in your campaign, and they need to know that it’s important to remember what date the election is being held on (which, of course, you will make very prominent on your literature, in your phone calls, and during your door-to-door efforts).

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