You wouldn’t try to bring a brand new dish using a new recipe to a potluck without testing it out first, right? Similar to cooking, you don’t want to implement your Get Out the Vote strategies without having tried them out first.

Dry Runs (practice run-throughs of your Get Out the Vote plan) are essential to a successful campaign.

You and your volunteers have worked diligently to prepare for the final days of the election cycle, known as Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV). Now, you need to make sure your plan works through practice.

It’s time to do a Dry Run.


Dry Runs are generally the two weekends prior to GOTV and are done to ensure that your GOTV plan runs smoothly and effectively.  Dry Run 1 and Dry Run 2 should happen during the final two weekends before GOTV officially starts. They should be launched from your pre-determined Staging Locations with your volunteer leadership in place.

Schedule Ahead of Time

It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one or if you have many people in volunteer leadership roles, you will want to get yourself and your teams into the mindset of GOTV ahead of time.

If you generally have an obligation, such as work or school during GOTV, you need to ensure that you do not have these obligations during these four days. Additionally, you need to ask your key volunteers and friends who have helped you so far have also reserved these four days off from any obligations. Calendars should also be reserved for practice GOTV, the two weekends before GOTV.

People and Their Roles

Now that time is blocked off, you and your volunteers need to know your roles for GOTV. It is helpful to have a team meeting to confirm that everyone feels comfortable working with one another to accomplish your goal of winning.

Even if you are the only person running the show, knowing these different roles that folks may take on for you is important for your preparation.

Staging Location Director

When running a Get Out the Vote operation, it is critical that you have someone manage your Staging Location for you. This would be your Staging Location Director. This person is someone who can excel at troubleshooting and navigating a space. This person will also report any numbers that may be critical (such as volunteer numbers, precincts walked, and walk packets or phone lists that need to go out).


If capacity allows, you should also have a Trainer who can manage signing volunteers in and out, as well as handle canvass and phone bank packets. This individual will also serve primarily as the person training volunteers on how to effectively talk to voters during GOTV.

If your space is big enough to allow for phonebanking in a separate room, you should have a different Trainer to train volunteers and run phonebanks.

Sign-Out Captain

If you have a ton of volunteers, you may have a Sign-Out Captain to help sign out materials to volunteers, too. This person ensures materials are accounted for during the day and at the end of the day.

Greeter and Comfort Captain

Finally, if you have so many amazing volunteer leaders that you can also have a Greeter, this is a person who welcomes volunteers, calls any volunteers who are not there at the beginning of a shift and follows up with volunteers during a volunteer shift. This person may also serve as a Comfort Captain who makes sure volunteers have snacks, water, and are feeling appreciated.

Materials You Will Need

While volunteers are critical to ensuring a successful GOTV plan, you will also need materials for people to use.  The timing of printing your walk lists and call sheets for Dry Runs and GOTV may vary from one campaign to another with regard to the results of your persuasion work and your campaign’s win number, but preparing your materials for voter contact is fairly similar.

Listed below are the general materials you will need to ensure your Dry Runs and GOTV are organized and efficient.

You should make plans to acquire these materials well in advance:

  • Banker’s Boxes (or equally sturdy boxes)
  • Large Manila Envelopes
  • Clipboards
  • Pens
  • Permanent Markers
  • Rubber Bands
  • Brightly Colored Labels

These are essential materials you will need to print for Dry Runs and GOTV:

  • Walk Lists
  • Phonebank Lists
  • Turf Maps (For Canvassing)
  • GOTV Scripts
  • Tally Sheets
  • Candidate Issue Information Sheets
  • Volunteer Sign-Up Sheets (For Volunteers To Come Back)
  • Polling Location(s) Information
  • Literature

Prepare Your Materials

If you don’t time out tasks or prepare materials, you run a risk of misplacing, mishandling, or forgetting materials. To organize your materials efficiently, here are steps to set up your boxes for Dry Runs and GOTV:

1. Print All Materials

With the essential items you will need for dry runs listed above, the first step is printing all of these materials (for both dry runs and Get Out the Vote Weekend).

2. Order Your Materials

In manila envelopes, you will place the direct voter contact materials needed by a volunteer during their shift. Then, you can easily move this folder or the folder’s materials onto a clipboard.

For each manila envelope, you should label the outside of the envelope with the city or county information, precinct information, and the turf or contact list prioritization number. This prioritization comes from your GOTV number calculation where most of your GOTV targets are, which you can learn about in our online GOTV course.

For canvassing, you will place the following items in this order in a manila envelope: canvass tally sheet, the individual turf map, accompanying walk list, canvass script, polling location information, candidate issue information sheet, and a volunteer sign-up sheet.

For phonebanking, the materials would be in a similar order: phonebank tally sheet, contact list, phonebank script, polling location information, candidate issue information sheet, and a volunteer sign-up sheet.

3. Assemble Materials Together

Count bundles of literature to match the number of doors in a walk packet. Bound them together with rubber bands so you can easily group the clipboard materials with campaign literature for volunteers to provide to voters or to leave at doors during this time.

Be sure to do this with pens as well, to ensure you have plenty for your shifts throughout each weekend. Try to provide volunteers with two pens each (one as a backup while on doors).

4. Label Folders with Naming Convention

It is critical to use a clear and consistent labeling system that your volunteer team knows. If you have multiple precincts, cities, counties, you should use the brightly colored labels to correlate materials. This helps you make sure that no materials end up in the wrong place.

5. Separate Materials by Weekend

To prepare for Dry Runs, you will have banker’s boxes with materials set up for both dry runs and separate boxes with materials solely for get out the vote. You should have separate boxes for door-to-door canvassing materials and phonebanking materials.

Let’s Get Out the Vote!

When it comes to your Get Out the Vote plan, practice and preparation are essential.

You know the people, materials, and preparation steps that you need to in order to have a smooth, informed GOTV.

Now go and Get Out the Vote!

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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.