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The fundamentals of Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV)
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The fundamentals of Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV)

Move your supporters to make their voices heard with these key principles for successful voter turnout.

GOTV or Get Out the Vote is the final phase of a campaign. At this point, you’ll have completed the phases of voter identification and persuasion, and are now focused solely on moving your confirmed supporters to cast their ballot. The name of the game is making sure every single one of your identified supporters actually casts a ballot and votes for you.

This phase of the campaign takes place in the last one-to-two weeks before the election and, under normal circumstances, usually leans heavily on in-person engagements, from candidate stop-bys, to door knocking, and everything in between. In a time of physical distancing, campaigns will need to rethink how they resource this time and will want to consider extending the GOTV period to align with vote by mail deadlines.

Speak to the right voters

As with all other phases of your field effort, your GOTV program needs to be targeted—you must make sure that you are getting your supporters, and only your supporters, to cast their ballots. Your GOTV program won’t be as effective if you are contacting all voters, including your opponent’s. You need to be ready to iterate and update your audiences based on the data your team is collecting on the voters who have already cast their ballots. This will ensure that the campaign is able to contact the people who still have yet to vote.

In your voter ID and persuasion phases you will have identified the voters who have confirmed that they are supporting you (known as your 1s and 2s); you’ll have also confirmed those who are still undecided (your 3s) and finally, those who are supporting another candidate or maybe aren’t voting at all (your 4s and 5s). 

For GOTV you want to ONLY be communicating with your 1s and 2s. This is very important. Once you’ve identified enough 1s and 2s to hit your win number, and your job is to get them to the polls. To do that you need to lock your universe—which means that you’ll no longer be having any voter ID or persuasion conversations. All of your staff and volunteers need to be contacting voters to confirm:

  • That they have a voting plan 
  • That they know where their polling location is
  • Their closest ballot drop box 
  • The relevant vote by mail deadlines

Once you’ve narrowed the audience to your 1s and 2s, you’ll want to focus on those who do not regularly vote. This may sound surprising, but it is important not to use the precious moments you have during GOTV to contact super voters (or, the people who vote in every election)—those are the people who have already confirmed their support, so you can count on them going to polls. A better ask for this universe could be to volunteer for your campaign.

Make the most of your resources

Do not duplicate efforts. Your volunteers and staff want to help you win, so make sure that the data you have at your disposal is aiding, not hindering,that effort. For example, if at your Saturday phone bank a voter confirmed their plan to vote with a volunteer, they should be in your 3rd or 4th round of election day lists. 

During your voter id and persuasion phases you will have gathered invaluable data on a voter’s contact history—listen to that data when you are creating your GOTV audiences. If someone’s phone was inaccessible during the persuasion phase they should be removed from your GOTV audience so you don’t contact them in a phone bank. Focus on the people you can readily communicate with.


  • Target the right people without duplicating efforts 
  • Make sure all of your 1s and 2s have a plan to vote
  • Pay attention to historical contact status
  • Identify key demographics you can use to segment voters

Refine your contact methods 

While we can’t use all of the traditional contact methods during this election season, you can still communicate with your voters through these means:

  • Phone banking 
  • Social media 
    • Facebook live 
    • Instagram live 
    • TikTok
  • Video calls
  • Literature drops
  • Email blasts 
  • Text blasts 
  • Robo calls
  • Direct mail

As always, it’s important to meet your voters where they are. As you’re planning your GOTV content, it’s imperative to engage with the data your voters have self-identified with your campaign to ensure the maximum return on your outreach programs. 

The GOTV phase will continue through Election Day, when you’ll focus on making sure your voters have what they need to cast their ballot in person or by mail.

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