Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Providing your voters a guide

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: Providing your voters a guide

Welcome to Nuts & Bolts, a guide to Democratic campaigns. I’ve helped write this series for years using information from campaign managers, finance directors, field directors, trainers, and staff, responding to questions from Daily Kos Community and staff members, and addressing issues that are sent to me via kosmail through Daily Kos.

Can you imagine a world without tour guides? I want you to step back from yourself and imagine a world where no one is available to tell you what you are looking at, what it means, and where you should go next. For a short while, it might be okay, but it wouldn’t take too long before confusion sets in and you would get lost. We rely on guides and recommendations in our daily life to determine where we would go to eat, who might be a good mechanic, what kind of car to buy, the latest game to buy or movie to watch. At any point this last week, did you go to a website like Yelp, Google Reviews, RottenTomatoes, or look up a review video on YouTube? If you did, it means you were busy consulting a guide that could help give you information about the process. How can guides help us in the process of electing more Democratic candidates?

Take it from Michigan

One of the reasons why I’m highlighting this issue this week is thanks to the good work done in Michigan, and some fantastic notes from our own peregrinekate, who saw firsthand how much candidate guides can mean to voters. In an online format, the Washtenaw County Party put forward a voter guide that walked voters through who they recommended on the November ballot. The guide was simple and easy to read. It was presentable in all formats, including on a phone, and it was easy to convey to voters via text or email. This means voters could save the information for reference later.

Voter guides sometimes get lost as a campaign tool because we just want to say things like “vote blue no matter who!” This strategy doesn’t work for so many counties because there will be offices up for consideration that do not carry a party affiliation. Counties can also have local bond issues, state constitutional issues, or regional and multistate bonding. Counties might have recommendations on these issues or not, and parties can choose to back these issues.

By providing a cohesive guide to voters that they can save, you allow voters to carry with them anywhere a guide they can refer to and make sure that they are making informed choices. While I did not have to vote on this issue myself, a nearby community had two bond issues on the ballot regarding a city pool and a city bridge. Getting information on what these initiatives were would help me become a better voter and feel more confident in turning out. There is one extra benefit: The less time I’m staring at a ballot in the ballot box, the quicker I can get through the ballot, which means any line behind me for voting will move faster. That alone is a benefit for democracy.

Making print count

I have often told candidates that the era of campaign mail is slowly dying. With the price of postage increasing, even under a nonprofit postage, sending out tons of mail is becoming less and less effective. Printed voter guides, however, are often not mailed and distributed directly by volunteers at the door or through any other stage of the canvassing process. 

Having your voter guides go out by any means, especially by the time you have advanced ballots in the hands of voters, can head off confusion and increase voter satisfaction. Do I support voting for a new bridge? I generally favor new construction, but what if there is a better plan that could happen and this proposal isn’t as fleshed out as it should be?

I have no idea who these two candidates are running for school board as it’s nonpartisan and my children are no longer in school. How can I know? 

Giving voters information on issues can make sure you lower confusion and increase voter satisfaction.

Final note

When you print anything, use a union print shop. It is important that a campaign supports union labor. Having a union “bug” on your material tells your voters you took a lot of time to make sure you selected your vendors with care and that you share their values. It is hard to hold onto union voters unless we show our values when it is possible.

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