What is a “Get Out the Vote” campaign, how does it work, and what makes one successful? We’re diving deep into this unique type of campaign today.
Table of Contents:
What Does GOTV Stand For, and What is a GOTV Campaign?
GOTV, or “Get Out the Vote,” is a type of campaign that encourages people to vote. Its goal is simple: increase the overall voter turnout, especially for people who will vote for certain candidates or positions.
GOTV campaigns are also used by political parties that tend to succeed when overall voter participation in their area is higher, as well as by specific politicians who are working to ensure that the people who would vote for them actually do go out and vote.
These types of campaigns have also been used to boost voter participation among traditionally underrepresented groups. For example, the League of Women Voters works to increase participation in voting and has traditionally focused on women. (It was actually founded by suffragists in 1920, the year after the Nineteenth Amendment was passed.)
What Makes GOTV Effective?
It’s not enough to simply spread a “go vote!” message. People need an actionable plan ready to go. If you can help make the process as frictionless as possible, people will be more likely to head to the ballot box.
The truth is: Getting people to actually vote is the single hardest part of any political campaign.
So what strategies are most successful? Common GOTV strategies include . . .
- Education campaigns that help people register to vote, find their polling places, remember election day, find out how to vote by mail, learn more about early voting, and more. Simply put, you want to remove as much friction (real or imagined) as possible in the voting process.
- Awareness campaigns that aim to remind voters that election season is here and that voting is important.
- Using celebrities, influencers, respected community members, and other spokespeople to draw attention and increase positive perception of voting.
- Leveraging personal connections, including friendships and familial connections, to encourage people to vote. This can make voting a “communal” exercise as well as an individual one.
- Using publicly available data on whether or not a person voted in past elections to encourage participation in the current election.
GOTV Through Text and SMS Messages
Text banking is a great medium for GOTV campaigns! That’s because people pay more attention to text messages than they do many other types of reach-outs. In the 2015 edition of Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber’s Get Out the Vote, they found a text message the day before the election to be more effective than volunteers telephoning, radio ads, leaflets, and more.
People who won’t answer an unknown number or open the door to a stranger will still read a text . . . plus, it’s a much less resource-intensive way to reach a large number of people.
Additionally, text banking GOTV campaigns provide a natural outlet for the “vote tripling” strategy. Within your script, if someone confirms they intend to vote, you can ask them to text three other friends. They’re already on their phone, texting, making it more likely that they’ll actually follow through.
If you’re using a text campaign, you’ll definitely want to use specific technology to help your volunteers focus on conversations by taking care of managing phone numbers, contacts, and tracking.
GOTV Through Phone Banking
GOTV phone banking works similarly to other types of phone campaigns, but with a specific goal of getting voters to the polls. Using dedicated phone banking software allows volunteers to focus on conversations with callers, rather than dialing and re-dialing or listening to the phone ring endlessly. It can also help measure your progress and track success. Just as with text voting, you can also employ “vote tripling” strategies here.
Your GOTV script needs to be sure to include:
- An introduction
- A reminder of the candidate’s name and what’s at stake in the election
- Asking if the person knows where to vote and what to bring, followed by an offer to help them find out their polling place if they’re unsure (for in-person voting)
- Reviewing the plan of when and where they intend to vote (for in-person voting) An offer of assistance voting, such as a ride or childcare, depending on the resources available to your campaign (for in-person voting)
- An ask for them to remind specific friends and family to vote
- Sincere thanks for their participation
Volunteers working on GOTV campaigns need to have the right information to share with voters. Be sure they have up-to-date facts and answers to common questions in your area.
Pro Tip: Remember that campaigns by local volunteers tend to do best. Give people guidance, but remind them to be authentic. Real connections are much more memorable.
One BIG MISTAKE Your GOTV Campaign Must Avoid
By far, the most common mistake GOTV campaigns make is not being specific enough. “Go vote!” is an admirable message, but there’s a difference between someone knowing it’s good to vote and actually doing it.
Think of it this way . . . you might know it’s good to exercise, but if you don’t have a plan, you probably won’t randomly wake up early to go on a run. Making the plan is a good first step, but telling a friend your plan makes it more likely you’ll follow through. Even better would be to have a friend join you. It’s a lot harder to hit the snooze button if you’ve got a friend waiting outside your door!
Now, take that example and apply it to voting. Someone knows it’s good to vote, and they know what’s at stake in the current election. Great! Do they know their polling place? How to get there? What they’ll need to bring to the poll? Will someone be coming by to pick them up, or are they responsible for bringing a family member along with them? Thinking through all of these points in advance moves the needle for voter participation.
One study found that having people make a plan was twice as effective as just asking people what they intended to do. It might feel pushy to ask for these details, but many people will be happy to have help thinking through the actual process of going to vote.
Your GOTV Efforts Will Determine Your Campaign’s Success
A successful GOTV can literally be the difference between success and failure for your candidate, your initiative, or your legislation. With even major elections sometimes being decided by a few thousand votes, mobilizing even a small percentage of your otherwise non-voting constituents can completely turn the tables in your favor.
So use these principles combined with great digital marketing to start your movement and go change the world.