Voter contact doesn’t move the needle unless it’s targeted. When it is, it moves mountains.
One of the most important early steps involved in campaign startup is identifying your voter target universe. It’s a combination of art and science.
The reason it’s important to do this targeting is that not every house has registered votes in it and not every registered voter will cast a ballot. Once you know that, it’s easy to understand how knocking every door on a street, or even every registered voter’s door is a waste of time.
It’s possible to encourage these folks to register or turn out unlikely voters…but that’s not your top priority. The first thing your list should be to identify and persuade likely voters. These folks are the low hanging fruit. They’re GOING to vote. The only question is whether they’ll vote for your campaign.
Once you’ve done that effectively, you can turn your attention to less likely voters and unregistered citizens. I’ll be honest though, few campaigns do enough work on the likely voters that it’s worth spending voter contact time on the unlikely.
So what about wave elections? 2016 surprised many people, myself included, with the huge turnout in primary elections.
If I was to go back to that election, I wouldn’t change my voter targets, since no available information could have shown me which other doors to knock. Instead, I would have shifted more dollars into radio, TV and mail. These are less targeted means of contact but in a scenario where wave turnout is likely, they can have a positive impact on voters when targeted voter contact is impossible.
Make sure your voter contact is carefully targeted and you execute the program in a disciplined manner. It can move mountains when it’s run effectively!
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