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Plan to win: your Election Day checklist

Learn the steps your campaign needs to finalize running for office to plan for a smooth and successful Election Day.

Plan to win: your Election Day checklist

The day that you have been working toward for months is finally here and there are some key scenarios that you need to plan for. 

Depending upon the size of your campaign, how many staff and volunteers you have, you will need to adopt different approaches on how to run your election day efforts. Get out the vote (GOTV) and Election Day are all about resource management, but there are vital components that every campaign needs regardless of the size of the district and demographic you are running for candidacy in.


Your volunteers will be the power behind your campaign and it’s vital to have a plan in place for managing this team to get your voters to the polls. 

Set up a structure that helps both the campaign, registered voters, and volunteers to succeed.

  • Establish standards for volunteering. - Ask for a minimum commitment in terms of the number of hours or days of the week a volunteer will be able to help filter for eligibility.
  • Create structures within your campaign to support volunteers.  Create a volunteer coordinator role that can assist your volunteers to ensure they know what they are responsible for and who to ask for their next task.
  • Monitor progress and reassign if necessary. Identify your volunteers skill sets and assign them to appropriate tasks. 
  • Provide training and support. Make sure not to ask a volunteer to do something they’re not trained on—provide opportunities to learn new skills and help the campaign in ways that match their experience.
  • Show appreciation. Your volunteers are not just helping your campaign, they’re also helping you win your election. They are the voice and face of your campaign to the other voters in your district. You should celebrate them!

Once you have your volunteer management plan in place, these are some of the roles you want to have staffed on Election day to support the voting process. Note that this list is not exhaustive and there will be other roles that can be filled depending on your campaign needs and the number of volunteers you have to work with.

Roles a volunteer can fill on Election Day:

  • Sign holders - These volunteers can show the support you have across the district by standing in high visibility places at high traffic times throughout Election Day.
  • Literature drops - Volunteers can stand outside a polling location and hand literature to the voters as they head into the polls. Most polling locations have rules about how close a person can be to the door of the polling station, so it's important that you respect these rules. If canvassing opportunities are limited, you can have volunteers do a literature drop to target houses for door-to-door canvassing on Election Day. Focus on your supporters (or your 1s and 2s) who have a poor voter turnout history.
  • Phone banking - This will look very similar to what you've done during the rest of GOTV, except this time you’ll be asking your GOTV universe if they have or have not voted.
  • Social media monitors - Engage your online community effectively with the help of volunteers! By participating from home, volunteers can actively interact with your supporters on social media, identifying and amplifying key campaign messages, and fostering widespread engagement throughout your busy day.
  • Drivers for rides to polls - Volunteers can provide rides to the polling places for voters you have identified that need a lift to their polling location on Election Day. You can designate one person or a group of people to be available throughout the day, and have them do phone banking in between giving rides.
  • Runners - These volunteers will ensure things “run” smoothly on Election Day. They can be responsible for picking up voter turnout sheets, getting poll watcher lists, grabbing coffee, dropping off signs, etc.
  • Data Entry - All of the data you are collecting on Election Day needs to be entered or dynamically collected—these volunteers should be trained on your data entry flow and should have done this volunteer activity at least once before election day.
  • Crisis response team - In case a crisis happens on Election Day, you need to be prepared. This team should consist of your campaign manager, attorney, PR, and the candidate.

Precinct Captains

Precinct captains will help ensure turnout in their individual precincts on Election Day. They will act as surrogates for the campaign throughout the cycle, and on Election Day they can serve as poll watchers or run point on the wards that need the most voter outreach.

Depending on the size of your district demographic, you may not be able to have precinct captains in each precinct. Resourcing precincts should be a strategic decision based on which precincts you have strong support in and need high turnout to run a successful campaign.

What to look for in a precinct captain:

  • Known in the precinct 
  • Strong supporter 
  • Can spark voter turnout 
  • Potential poll watcher
  • Identify the best sign locations 

Poll Watchers

You can put a person from your campaign into a polling location to act as an observer. These folks cannot talk directly to voters, nor can they do any campaigning inside the polling location. What they can do is have a list of all the voters in that precinct and cross off the names as the individuals come in to vote. A poll watcher’s primary purpose is to ensure that their candidate has a fair chance of winning an election.

They will monitor the activities of the polling location and will keep a tally of voter turnout for your 1s and 2s. Then, they’ll report this information back to the campaign so that they have the most up to date information on who of their supporters have voted and who still needs to be in the voter outreach plans.

When planning your poll watcher program you must ensure that these volunteers are trained. You cannot just show up at the precinct on Election Day. Most, if not all, districts require that poll watchers are identified and approved prior to Election Day—usually at least two weeks beforehand.

Remember the laws vary state to state and county to county, so always be sure to check with an Elections lawyer on the restrictions in place in your county.

In short, poll watchers:

  • Keep track of voter turnout in the precinct
  • Are not allowed to wear or bring campaign collateral
  • Must be trained and identified to your local election agency
  • Identify who still needs a rousing “get out the vote” call
  • Report polling location issues
  • Act as your eyes and ears at polling locations

Data Entry 

Your precinct data will be key to understanding how your political campaign is doing with turnout to hit your win number. On Election Day there are two data entry streams to manage:

  1. Poll watcher sheets - You should have a schedule in place for when runners are picking up this data and a central location they return it to for the wards they are responsible for.
  2. Voter contact confirmations - This will be happening throughout the day via phone calls, texts, email, and social media. You must make sure to enter this data and refresh your lists at least hourly to ensure your volunteers are contacting people who still haven’t voted in your GOTV universe.

Election Day Plan

Every campaign’s Election Day will look a little different, but they will all have plans in place for the following to ensure a smooth operation: 

  • Polling location hours
  • Candidate schedule 
  • Phone bank times 
  • List refresh times 
  • Poll watcher sheet pick-up times
  • Voter turnout checks
  • Data entry blocks
  • Visibility schedule

Your Election Day plan will enable you to have a clear sense of what needs to happen to hit your win number. Think about the following as you finalize your run of show. 

  • How many volunteers do you have?
  • What are the time slots during which volunteers can help? 
  • Is there a central location for volunteers? 
  • Can you confirm with your volunteers 3 times prior to their shift?
  • Do you have a backup volunteer for each vital shift?
  • Is there a clear chain of command within your campaign?

At this point you will have locked in your GOTV universe, prepared your GOTV and E-Day scripts, have printed all GOTV and E-Day campaign collateral, confirmed and scheduled your volunteers, and sent your candidate’s schedule to the press. Now all you need to do is get your voters in for early voting, mail-in, or to the polls.

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