PCO Handbook - Electioneering or "Getting out the Vote"

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Electioneering or "Getting out the Vote"

Table of Contents

  1. Coffee Hours
  2. Absentee Ballots
  3. Yard Signs
  4. Candidate Preference Polls
  5. Doorbelling
  6. Leafletting and Tubing
  7. Getting out the Vote
  8. Poll Watchers

Coffee Hours

A candidate coffee hour is an effective and inexpensive way to bring together interested voters to meet candidates and discuss issues. You should invite friends, family and neighbors, as well as identified Democrats and independents in your precinct. You must schedule the date with the candidate's campaign organization. Be sure to check with your district organization to avoid scheduling conflicts. Generally there is only one candidate per coffee hour, however two candidates running for different offices is OK. Invitations should be sent out about one week in advance. Follow-up phone calls are strongly recommended.

As the name suggests, the event should last about one hour. Have a sign-in sheet, volunteer cards and a basket for donations at the party. The candidate will want the names address and phone numbers of the people who attend. Make a copy for yourself. Coffee and cookies are provided by the host, who introduces the candidate. You will probably need to ask the first question to get things moving and facilitate discussion. At the proper time, draw the party to a close and thank everyone for coming.

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Absentee Ballots

Washington State is one of the most progressive states in allowing people to vote by absentee ballot as a matter of convenience. In the next few years almost 50% of voters are expected to vote absentee. Offer absentee ballot applications to Democrats and independents in your precinct. Give senior citizens and handicapped persons an Ongoing Absentee Ballot application. They will automatically be sent absentee ballots by the Auditor's office. Offer to send it in for them after they have filled it out. Offer to provide information on issues and candidates early to the absentee voter.

Absentee ballots may be requested as much as 45 days in advance of an election, or as late as one day before an election, however they must be postmarked no later than midnight on election day. During the last few days before an election, absentee ballots should be applied for and picked up in person by the voter at the county auditor's office. Absentee ballot request forms may be obtained from your legislative district organization or the county auditor's office, but use of the form is not required. A letter of request signed by the voter indicating his/her voting address (and mailing address, if different) is sufficient.

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Yard Signs

Obtain yard sign locations for your Democratic candidates at least one month before an election. Post them in key locations such as well traveled streets. Please remember:

  • Yard signs are an expensive part of political campaigns and need to be seen!
  • Always obtain permission from the resident before installing a yard sign. Remember - just because someone is a Democrat, don't assume they support all the Democratic candidates you do. Always Ask!!
  • Be familiar with and obey any local ordinances governing the placement of yard signs on private and public property.

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Candidate Preference Polls

Telephone polls are often conducted in conjunction with the legislative district, county or state Democratic organizations, or with political campaigns. As a PCO you may be asked to telephone voters to obtain information regarding issues or candidates. Although the timing of telephone polls vary, they are usually conducted one to two weeks before an election. A sample telephone poll script might read as follows:

"Hello, my name is _____ and I'm taking a brief poll on behalf of the Washington State Democratic Campaign. Is _____ (voter's name) at home?" (Ask for each voter in the household one at a time. If none are home, end the call and move on to the next on your list.) Reintroduce yourself, if necessary. Then:

"As you know, there will be an election for President, Senator, Governor and other offices on November 2nd."

"If the election for President were held tomorrow, and the candidates were Democrat _____ and Republican _____, for whom would you vote?"

"If the election for Governor were held tomorrow, and the candidates were Democrat _____ and Republican _____, for whom would you vote?"

"And for Senator, if the election were held tomorrow and the candidates were Democrat _____ and Republican _____, for whom would you vote?"

"Thank you very much for your time. Good-bye"

Quite often, you may be asked to reverse the order (i.e. Republican candidate first, then Democrat) with every other call.

A Sample Worksheet:
Name: Phone: 1: President 2: Governor 3: Senator 4: Other Office
Jill Smith 225-2255 D U D D
John Doe 552-5522 R R U R
Alice Jones 252-5252 D U U U

If you are polling your precinct, this information will be invaluable to you for doorbelling. Keep a copy for yourself before handing in your results. Jill Smith is a possible recruit as a precinct worker or a sign location. John Doe is probably a Republican, but might selectively be given literature on the Democratic candidate for whom his vote is undecided. Alice Jones is a candidate for informational literature and brochures, in an attempt to sway her undecided votes.

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Doorbelling is very different from canvassing. When you canvass, you are collecting information and introducing yourself. When you doorbell, you are giving out information.

One of the most effective ways to influence the outcome of an election is to provide each registered voter with campaign literature on Democratic candidates. In this computerized, bulk-mail world, most people appreciate the "personal touch" of hand-delivered information, and are much more likely to take the time to read it.

As an election draws near, you will probably be contacted by Democratic candidates asking you to doorbell. Many legislative district and county organizations, as well as the state party, are now putting together "Coordinated Campaigns", which pool the resources of the PCO's to distribute literature for all Democratic candidates in the general election. Even if a Democrat is running unopposed in the primary, it is important to have a good showing, in order to raise the money necessary to win in the general election.

Helpful Hints for Doorbelling:

  • Ideally, you should doorbell within the two weeks prior to the primary, and again before the general election. Since you know what time you have, and how long it takes to doorbell your precinct, let that be your guide.
  • Carry your precinct walking list and other pertinent information. It's never too late to update your work. Also carry absentee ballot applications for Democratic voters.
  • Utilize the system you've developed during canvassing. By checking your notes, you'll be able to save time and energy by distributing literature only to Democratic and Independent voters.
  • Ring the doorbell and introduce yourself, by name, as their Democratic Precinct Committee Officer. Ask for the voter by name. Give the voter the literature to read and remind them when election day is. If you think they need it, also remind them where the polling place is.
  • If no one is home, leave the literature where the voter will see it, but not where the wind will blow it away, or where a potential burglar might be attracted if the home is empty for more than one day.
  • Tailor your approach to voters according to what you know about them. Some resent being doorbelled; they don't like someone coming to their door for any reason. Just leave the literature at the door with a note to call if they have questions.
  • Never agrue. A good technique is to say, "I'm _____, I live over on _____ street. I'm your Democratic Precinct Committee Officer and I'm walking our precinct today with some information on Democratic candidates (extend the packet, ready to hand it to the voter). I'd appreciate it if you'd look at the information and consider them."
  • This low-key method establishes that you are a neighbor sharing information in a non-threatening manner. Very few people will say no. And since you were friendly and smiled, most of them will read the information you gave them.

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Leafletting and Tubing

Doorbelling is a time-consuming endeavor. Unless you have no other demands on your time, it is realistic to expect that finishing your precinct will require the help of others. The following are two alternatives to doorbelling:

Leafletting - Leafletting is doorbelling without the doorbell. Simply leaving the literature at the door is quicker, but it is also much less effective. Whenever possible, you want that personal touch, but if time or energy is in short supply, it is better than no contact at all.

Tubing - Tubing simply means that you place the literature in newspaper tubes (these are privately, not publicaly owned). Do NOT leave literature in a mailbox; this is prohibited by federal law.

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Getting out the Vote

Getting out the vote (GOTV) can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. Most GOTV efforts are coordinated with political campaigns, or through Party organizations. Your formation of a Precinct Committee, or selection of a group of volunteers from your precinct, will now prove invaluable in getting out the Democratic vote. They will become your instrument for getting identified Democrats (and independents who lean Democratic) to vote. The duties to be performed generally fall into the following categories:

  1. Designating a headquarters where GOTV efforts can be coordinated. This can be a home or apartment.
  2. Arranging for transportation for those unable to drive (elderly, handicapped, etc.) to the polls. Since you ideally have provided absentee ballots for all voters in your precinct that need them, this may or may not be a necessary service.
  3. Coordinating a telephone canvass to follow-up the work of the Poll Watcher with reminders to vote, and to ascertain who needs transportation.

A sample telephone approach:

"Hello. I'm _____, your Democratic Precinct Committee Officer (or precinct worker). Your vote is very important, and I'm calling to ask whether you have voted yet." If the answer is positive, thank the voter and terminate the call. If the answer is negative, follow up the conversation with the following:
"If you need assistance in getting to the polls, we can provide transportation. Would you be interested?"

Every vote is important. Often an election is decided on a very few votes, and the extra effort that is required with the GOTV strategy can very well put a Democratic candidate in office, or favorably decide an important initiative.

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Poll Watchers

State Law (RCW 29.51.125) allows a polling person to determine who has and who has not voted. The law requires that you present the election officer a letter from your district or county chair designating you (or a person you designate) as the Democratic polling person for your precinct. Request this letter in advance of election day.

Using your annotated alphabetical list, the polling person should go to the precinct polling place about 4:00 pm on election day to see which Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independents have voted. Using the results of that information, your telephone volunteers should contact those voters that have not yet voted, remind them that it is election day and urge them to go to the polls. All voters who are in line by 8:00 pm may vote.

Please note that the designated poll observer cannot be a current candidate for office. If you are on the ballot for Precinct Committee Officer, you are prohibited by law from access to the voter rolls. You must arrange for a volunteer to assume this duty.

It is just as important to support Democratic candidates running for county, legislative and non-partisan positions in off-year elections, as it is to campaign during state and federal election years. Please remember that "all politics are local politics".

After the election results have been made official, obtain the election results from your precinct from your District or County organization. These should be available a few days after the election. Save these records to help with targeting for future elections. Watch your work pay off as your precinct becomes more and more Democratic, and better informed with each election.

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This document was transcribed for the Web in June, 2003 by Chad Lupkes, a volunteer in Precinct SEA 46-2324
Content is © 1995 by the Washington State Democrats' Chair Organization.
The text of this document was last updated on June 25, 1995
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