Do's and Don'ts for GOTV - COVID Edition | National Democratic Training Committee

Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) is potentially the single most important aspect of a campaign. If you want to win on election day, you need to get at least one more vote than your opponent. That doesn’t happen if you don’t encourage your supporters to vote.

This year, GOTV is going to be a bit different than usual. You’ll need to focus on vote by mail and advanced voting. Your voter contact efforts won’t happen in person.

But, the same general principles of GOTV apply whether or not you can meet in-person. You need to encourage your supporters to vote.

To that end, we’ve put together our list of Do’s and Don’ts of GOTV during COVID-19.

Do prioritize the health and safety of your volunteers and voters

First and foremost, keeping your community safe and healthy during the pandemic needs to be a top priority.

This means no door knocking. Phonebanking is your new best friend.

You’ll also want to provide voters with the information they need to vote in advance – either by early voting or vote by mail.

Information on how to best run a GOTV program is below. But, the first thing you need to consider is how you can keep your community healthy.

Do tell your volunteers what the goal of GOTV is

The GOTV phase of your campaign is notably different from the persuasion stage of your campaign. While those of us who are familiar with campaigns might understand the difference, your volunteers may not. Knowing that, it is best to explain what GOTV is, why it’s important, and what the goal is.

Your field efforts to this point have been all about persuasion. At GOTV, we’re done with that. We’re done identifying new supporters, and it’s time to actually turn out and make certain your identified voters actually vote.

Now, this may be shocking to you, but your campaign is not always the most important priority for every voter. 

Sometimes, life gets in the way of people remembering to vote. I know, it’s crazy. That’s why it’s up to you to harass, cajole, drag every last base and identified supporter out to the polls.

This means you want to focus on a GOTV universe made up of your base voters or party voters. Remember, these are the voters who have a good record of voting in your party’s primary over several elections. Now in addition to those base voters, it also includes all of the persuasion voters that you’ve identified throughout the course of your campaign up until now.

Don’t focus on voters the campaign hasn’t identified

At this point in your campaign, you’re no longer calling voters trying to convince potential supporters to vote for you. If you’ve done it right, you should have already identified the voters who want to vote for you. These are the voters who should be getting your attention now.

If your campaign is able to hit it’s win number if your identified voters vote, that’s great. You should focus your efforts solely on getting these voters to the polls. You no longer need to convince people to vote for you. If you do, you’re wasting time that you could be spending getting your identified voters to the polls.

That said, there’s a caveat to this rule. You may find that even with all the party voters and the persuasion voters you identified that are supporting you, you don’t have enough votes to win. If all of those folks combined are not large enough to get you to your win number, this is not a reason to panic.

When this is the case, you need to expand your GOTV universe to include other groups. It’s not ideal, but happens all the time. Perhaps you add more persuasion voters that have not been contacted or you add more party voters who have less reliable turnout history.

But, if you’re sending volunteers to persuade a voter during GOTV, make sure that they’re aware of this. They need to understand what their goal is when talking to a voter. It will also be helpful if you mark this down on their walk sheet.

Do contact voters frequently and provide vote by mail information

Campaigns would be a lot easier if you could call a voter, leave a voicemail reminding them to vote, and then they’d show up at the poll.

Sadly, this is not the case. A voicemail is likely to go unheard. A single phone call, even if answered, is likely to have little impact on a voter. Realistically, you’ll need to contact a voter at least three times before your message really hits home.

If your GOTV phase coincides with early voting, you’ll want to keep contacting a voter until they tell you that they have finally voted. If a voter still hasn’t voted when you contact them, make a note to contact them again later on.

You also need to consider the threat that COVID-19 plays. Voters are going to be wary to vote in a public place on Election Day. You need to provide them with information on how they can vote by mail or vote early.

For more on the voting information you need to provide to voters during COVID-19, check out this blog post.

Don’t be leave a bad impression of your campaign

One of the worst things you can do for your campaign is to leave a bad impression when you’re interacting with voters. Above all else, you want to remain respectful and polite at all times. Smile and say hello. Don’t force voters into in-person interactions. If a voter tells you they don’t want to be bothered, don’t bother them.

During the pandemic, keeping voters healthy is a top priority. Don’t do anything that may suggest otherwise. For now, this includes door knocking. While it’s usually the most effective way to contact voters, phone calls are better this cycle.

During the GOTV stage of your campaign, you might come across voters who have previously said they intend to vote for your candidate, but now they refuse to do so. This is frustrating. You thought you had a vote locked down, but now you don’t. You may even feel like you need to stand there and argue with the voter in an attempt to get them to vote for you.


This actually helps you in the long run. Now you know to not spend your limited resources trying to get this voter to the voting booth.

If someone has already told you they will not be voting for you, do not waste time trying to convince them otherwise. Chances are, you won’t. Instead, focus on getting the voters who will be voting for you to the polls. Smile, thank them for their time, and move on to voters who will vote for you.

Leaving a poor impression on a voter can only serve to hurt your campaign. Not only have you made the voter more likely to vote for your opponent, but they may also encourage those around them to do the same.

Do make voting as easy as possible

If you make voting easy, a voter is more likely to vote (and to vote for you).

When you contact voters during the GOTV stage of your campaign, make sure you provide them with important information that they should know when it comes to voting.

Where do they need to go to vote? What are the options for early voting? Do they need an ID when they vote? These are questions that your campaign needs to be prepared to answer for voters. The easier you can make voting for them, the more likely they are to vote.

This is typically all important information, but its importance has been amplified 10000x times due to COVID.

Do Get Out The Vote

Getting out the vote is a vital part of election day. If you don’t do your part to get voters to the polls, you’ll end up disappointed when the results come in.

By following these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be able to run an effective GOTV strategy during the pandemic.

Want to learn more about GOTV? Make sure to check out our GOTV course!


Next Live Training

NDTC Virtual Live Training

January 26, 2021

8:00pm - 9:00pm (ET)

Online Academy

The training and tools you need, when you need them. Courses are available 24/7. Are you a candidate, campaign staffer or volunteer, at the beginning stages of your campaign or in the home stretch? We have the courses to address your specific needs and arm you with the knowledge to win.

View course catalog

Not sure where to start? Take a short quiz to help you determine the best place for you to get started.

Take the quiz

Jacob Vurpillat

Jacob is the Manager of Political Communications for NDTC. Jacob was initially an intern for NDTC in 2016 before moving on to work for both a Chicago Alderman and an Illinois State Representative. After working in Parliament in the Republic of Ireland, Jacob joined NDTC in April of 2018. Jacob is a graduate of DePaul University with a degree in Political Science. Outside of politics, Jacob tries to forget the Chicago Cub's century of losing while enjoying their recent success.