Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: In the last hours, prioritize the ballot chase

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: In the last hours, prioritize the ballot chase

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.

It’s the Sunday before an election, and there will still be ads on the air everywhere in an effort to convince people about their candidate. The truth is if someone is undecided hours before an election, they are the most likely to not vote at all. In those situations, the things campaign, county, and state organizations need will not be digital signals being beamed into a home, a cute billboard, or a hot piece of mail. Starting before this diary is running, every campaign should be spending all of its resources on making sure that every guaranteed vote they know of turns up at the polls and casts a ballot for their candidate. That could be organizing travel, it could be encouraging volunteers to go out and knock doors, or it could be having friends make personal follow-up calls. 

Every vote left at home is wasted

Every day leading up to Election Day, voters have an opportunity to participate. Every day voters turn out is a win for Democratic campaigns. When we trail our own projections, or when we aren’t getting voters we know will be with us to the polls, we need to do more to play catch-up on Election Day, and that becomes harder the closer we get to Election Day.

Young NC voters aren’t feeling it. #ncpol

— EQV Analytics (@AnalyticsEqv) November 3, 2022

Looking at North Carolina, the gap between 2018 and 2022 isn’t a trend line any campaign would want to see. There are other factors here that are far more difficult to determine depending on the state. Where are the early voters coming from? Democratic or Republican young voters? What counties and areas? In general, however, if early voting of young voters isn’t right in your area, then we have hit the last possible moment to do everything we can to get those voters to the polls.

Democratic policies delivered, and we should tout those wins

Republicans are great at selling pessimism and that they know the economy despite the fact they’ve crashed it into a ditch repeatedly over my lifetime. It is hard to refer to the 2008 crisis and Trump’s disaster as anything but moments of grinding the economy into shambles, leaving Democratic administrations to pick up the pieces.

Democratic candidates stand for issues that impact young voters, from reproductive rights and birth control access to the fastest increase in jobs in generations: Biden has added more than 10 million jobs.

Using the facts only, we need to motivate many voters to actually turn out. If we know they are with us, we simply need to provide the means and the interest in doing so, and that may be as simple as an ask from someone close to them. 

The stronger our volunteer base and the stronger our community connections are, the more likely we are to turn out the voters we need. If we don’t turn out the voters, we have to ask why not.

Voter suppression policies are taking their toll nationally, and we need to work in every moment to overcome those very high hurdles so that more hurdles are not put in the way that will make sure voters will have less and less input.

Having an Election Day plan

In your county or campaign office, have a clearly posted Election Day plan. This plan should document how many volunteers are committed to each shift during the day to make sure that you have full coverage all day long, a map of districts within the county or campaign, and targets that are being hit.

Set goals utilizing all tools available to you: phonebanking, transportation, and poll-watching. Check back in with follow-ups and make it clear to everyone who is present that you are all on the same team to get things done. Coming in on Election Day to work is actual work. Pay as many as you can to do full work because paid volunteers are more likely to show up for committed hours rather than have a last-minute event cause them to fail to show up. 

Once you have your operations center up and running, keep in mind your goal is to make sure you contact voters you know are Democratic voters and turn them out. If your plan calls on you to spend time with questionable voters or trying to convert a Republican voter on Election Day, it is a bad plan. Period. I will hear some oppose this idea, but decades of reality tell me that not only does it waste your time trying to convince one questionable voter or convert one Republican voter, but it backfires in the loss of time contacting voters you need to turn out and potentially motivating a vote against your own candidate. Make the best use of your time.

Understanding the rules makes all the difference!

Something I have heard repeatedly is that too many people have received false information that if they haven’t voted by the time their polling time has officially passed, it’s over for them. If a voter is already standing in line, then they are still allowed to vote. As part of your voter outreach and get out the vote effort, make sure that your voters come prepared with the facts to their polling place. If they are standing in line, they cannot be turned away from voting. If they show up to get in line after the close of polling, then yes, they will be turned away. If they stand in line even a minute before the poll closes, then they are fully entitled to cast their ballot. 

Another item that thwarts too many voters is failing to know the right polling place or provide the right material. On the phone, go through where each voter will be voting with an address. Text them the address if needed so that they can GPS map it if possible and there is no doubt they’ll go to the correct location. Provide them the guidance for what their state may need in order to vote. A voter armed with this information won’t get lost and will make their way to the polls to cast a ballot.

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