Three GOTV Volunteers Your Local Party Needs on Election Day 

Local parties spend approximately 75% of their time building relationships, capacity, and Democratic infrastructure including GOTV Volunteers. The rest of the time, local parties use this built infrastructure to help turn out the Democratic base vote for election efforts. 

Most likely you, as a local leader, are working with your state party’s coordinated campaign during an election year. You want to be mindful of these coordinated efforts and what role your local party plays! 

Don’t forget that your local Democratic party chairs are invaluable during election cycles! Use them. 

GOTV Volunteer Roles

So, what roles do local parties need to consider to Get Out The Vote (GOTV)? 

The three main types of volunteers you’ll recruit are: 

  • Direct Voter Contact Volunteers
  • Poll Watchers 
  • Poll Location Volunteers

As far as frequency of volunteering, you need continuous direct voter contact. Your campaign needs folks to lead values-based conversation efforts on an on-going basis with Democratic base voters. In addition, on GOTV Election Day, you need both poll watchers and poll location volunteers. 

When connecting GOTV volunteers to opportunities, consider their skillset, the training provided, and their level of engagement

Direct Voter Contact

Direct voter contact engages current and potential supporters through door-to-door canvassing, phone banking, and text banking. Note: we’re not knocking on doors during COVID-19.  

Throughout GOTV, crucial conversations take place with supporters and Democratic base voters. Down to the final moments of Election Day, you need a lot of GOTV volunteers to contact voters and make sure they’ve voted.

Poll Watcher

Every state has slightly different requirements and responsibilities for poll watchers. Note that this is not the same position as a poll worker. Please make sure your local party knows this information for your state. 

Most jurisdictions require you to share the names of poll watchers and their assigned precincts with the local board of elections ahead of Election Day. This way, the board can approve their presence in advance. Again, these processes are dependent on the state. 

In short, poll watchers ensure elections are fair. Your poll watchers check off Democratic voters as they vote, monitor overall turnout, and send reports to your campaign throughout Election Day. These folks are highly engaged with their neighborhood and know their Democratic community. Oftentimes, they may be a precinct chair or work closely with the chair. The poll watcher marks names off a list, and will give this list to the poll location “runner.” 

Poll watchers also ensure fair election administration happens at  polling locations. They can call voter protection hotlines should they notice any voter suppression happening. 

Poll Location Volunteers

Polling location volunteers also include “runners” and “passers.” Your poll watchers will help pass off lists of voters who have not voted to “runners.” The runners contact voters who have yet to appear to ensure they have a plan to cast their ballot. In 2020, this person will likely be making calls as we’re not knocking on doors in the pandemic.

This GOTV volunteer’s role is the busiest between 5:00 pm and when polls close on Election Day. Every minute counts and runners know this!  

Another polling location volunteer role includes the “passer,” who passes out palm cards or literature outside of the polling location. Passers must know state laws about the distance required between them and the entrance to the polling location and observe all official signage on site. 

Please note that these roles may look a bit different in 2020 given COVID-19. 

Reminders When Making Your GOTV Ask

The GOTV volunteer hard ask follows a similar flow to any hard ask, but we want to emphasize three key things during this part of the campaign. This is the final opportunity to volunteer for a campaign, so you want to emphasize the urgency to make an impact. 

  • Make multiple asks. Keep asking until you get a yes.
  • Don’t stop at a yes. Ask for everything you need (this includes all the volunteer roles, responsibilities, and volunteer shifts that you need).
  • Get a hard commitment for a specific thing (or things).

GOTV Volunteers are Vital

We don’t have to tell you how important GOTV volunteers are. Even in the home stretch, you can develop the right volunteers and pave your way towards your vote goal. We have a plethora of courses on recruiting, managing, and building volunteers to lead. They are vital to your success, and Democratic campaigns couldn’t survive without them. 

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Collyn Warner

Since 2008, Collyn Warner has spent most of her time working on political and issue-based campaigns, community organizing, and training. She started her work in these areas in red (and primarily rural) areas in the regional South. In addition to these efforts, Collyn previously worked on event coordination, communication efforts, and logistics at the International Monetary Fund, as well as membership development with Business Forward. She has worked in communications and outreach for the Campaign for Southern Equality, Neighbors for Equality (a grassroots LGBTQ rights group), Amnesty International, and higher education institutions.

Collyn completed her M.A. in English (Composition and Rhetoric) at The University of Alabama, where she was awarded funding to research the digital tools of community organizing across LGBTQ advocacy efforts in North Carolina, and she has presented on activist literacy, digital organizing, and grassroots initiatives at national conferences.