Don’t Knock Doors - Voter Contact During COVID-19 | NDTC

In the past few months, we’ve been asked one question over and over again about voter contact during COVID-19.

“Should my campaign be knocking doors?”

While knocking doors is usually the single most effective way to contact voters, campaigning in 2020 is, as usual, different.

The official recommendation of the National Democratic Training Committee is you should not knock on doors.

To be clear, no one at NDTC is a medical expert. We are trying to synthesize and understand all COVID-19 related information in the same way you are. But, we do keep a finger on the pulse of what voters are feeling and thinking, and how they will react to certain things campaigns do or don’t do.

So let’s lay it out plain and simple.

Knocking doors or sending volunteers to knock doors will, at best, harm your campaign’s reputation. At worst, you are risking the health and safety of your community.

The hard, honest truth is that no one wants unsolicited people knocking on their doors, ringing their doorbells, and trying to have a conversation.

I know I don’t. Not during a pandemic.

You need to respect that.

And, before you ask, you should not be dropping campaign literature at someone’s door either. That’s like asking a vegetarian if they eat chicken or fish. You’re risking your campaign’s reputation in the same way as door knocking.

Don’t do anything that puts your community at risk. Period.

Voter Contact During COVID-19

Being unable to knock doors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t contact voters.

In fact, it means the opposite.

You need to contact voters way more than normal. And, thanks to the power of digital/virtual campaigning, you can contact voters way more than normal.

Here are a few ideas for voter contact during COVID-19:

Phonebanking

Phonebanking has long been a staple of political campaigns.

But, do you want to know a secret to phonebanking during a pandemic?

Everyone is at home! (Or, at least, I hope they are.)

Now is the PERFECT time to phonebank. Voters are way more likely to answer now than they are during their usually busy life.

And, better yet, phonebanking is something a volunteer is able to do from their home. And they can do it from literally anywhere in the country.

You know how your aunt told you she’d definitely love to help out on the campaign, but she lives 3 states away so she can’t?

Good news! She can call voters!

Phonebanking is easy, it’s fun, and volunteers can do it anywhere. It’s a must-have for an effective field plan.

You can learn more about phonebanking in our Field Tactics course:

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Texting

Welcome to digital campaigning!

Texting allows your campaign to accomplish two things:

  1. You can contact a massive amount of voters in a short period of time.
  2. You can do so without risking anyone’s health or safety.

Back in 2008, when Obama’s presidential campaign said they’d announce their Vice President pick via a text to campaign supporters, texting was still relatively new to campaigns.

Now, it can be your key to success.

You can send hundreds of texts in just a few minutes. And it’s a much easier task for volunteers who don’t love the idea of phonebanking.

Based on research from the 2018 election cycle, voters who receive a text are eight percent more likely to vote. That’s a huge increase in voter turnout for something that doesn’t require a ton of effort.

Long story short, your campaign needs to start texting voters ASAP.

You can learn more about texting in our Mini Lesson – Does Your Campaign Need a Texting Program?
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In-Person Creativity

Just because you can’t knock on someone’s door doesn’t mean you can’t see voters in person.

It means you need to get creative.

For example, we heard from one candidate who uses digital advertising to let voters know they’ll be walking in a specific neighborhood at a certain time on a certain day.

Then, when the candidate is in that area, they walk down the street ringing a bell. Anyone who wants to talk can come outside and have a socially distanced conversation.

The candidate is able to talk to voters but avoids putting anyone in a position that jeopardizes their health and safety.

We’re sure there are dozens of ways to effectively contact voters in-person. You just need to be creative.

Don’t Knock Doors

Your campaign should not be knocking doors. There’s too much risk for too little reward.

2020 is the age of digital campaigning. There are dozens of tools at your disposal to contact voters in a safe way. At the end of the day, your goal is to serve your community. That needs to start during your campaign.

Hopefully, this isn’t the advice we have to give in 2021 and 2022. But, for now, stick to phonebanking and texting.

And, above all else, be creative.

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Kelly Dietrich

Kelly is the Founder and CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee.

He has worked on dozens of campaigns at every level across the country. Kelly's specialty is in new campaign creation, candidate and staff training, and fundraising.

In addition to working for 18+ years in Democratic politics, he teaches a class on political campaigns at DePaul University in Chicago, where he lives with his family and dog, a large hungry blue Weimaraner named Jack Bauer. Kelly started his career in 1998 with Rep. Dennis Moore in KS-03. He's an avid basketball and poker player, though never at the same time. His wife would point out that at no time in this biography was he described as "good" at either hobby. That was a conscious decision.