Voter Identification in a General Election
Smart campaigns start directing their ground operations to voter identification for the general election immediately after the primary is over. Their goal is to re-gear the campaign infrastructure in preparation for a new, and largely un-touched, universe of voters.
This re-tooling requires answering several strategic questions, such as:
- Do I have an opponent in the election and, if so, what kind of threat do they pose?
- What is my campaign's current financial situation and what kind of ground activity does my projected budget allow?
- Will I rely more heavily on volunteers or paid staff?
- How many, and what type of voters, do I anticipate will vote in the election?
- What issues resonate with the voters I need to win and how can I message to them effectively?
- Have I purchased and appended phone numbers to my likely voter universe?
- Are we equipped with a robust software solution to handle our voter contact and data? (Hint: CampaignSidekick is the answer to this question!!)
After answering your strategic questions, start the process of voter identification. Voter persuasion and turnout (Get Out The Vote or GOTV) are separate campaign phases that we will address in future posts.
What is Voter Identification?
The voter identification process should begin several months (ideally 3-4) before the election. Your focus during this phase is on finding likely voters who SHOULD vote for you. Voters who align with you on important issues but may not be prepared to commit to supporting your campaign. Use robo-surveys, live calls and door-to-door canvassing to complete a messaging survey and identify voters' concerns. You need to know what they care about, where they stand on important issues and how they feel about the political climate.
Voter identification isn't cheap. However, during the identification phase, volume is your friend and quality is slightly less critical. We're focused on listening to the voters, not telling them how they should vote. Any means of getting their feedback can be helpful, if used correctly.
Robo-calls commonly range in price from 2.25-3 cents per dial while paid live calls may be 30-50 cents. Canvassing (block walking) may be $3-5 per door. Even with volunteers handling calls and canvassing, your per-hour tradeoff is likely 60-100 calls to 15-25 doors.
Deciding between robo-calls, live-calls and canvassing isn't an either-or question though. You don't want all your eggs in one basket. Use a variety of means to identify voters. Similarities or differences between the results of each medium will give you valuable information. You'll also be able to identify more voters!
Your goal is similar to a sales-representative who has to move people from cold contacts to a completed sale. There are multiple phases of the pipeline and you want to move people through it as efficiently as possible. During voter identification, we want to qualify leads to put into our sales funnel.
What are my Voter Identification Goals?
Our goal with voter contact is to move your universe of likely voters into your campaign sales funnel. We need at least 50% + 1 of them end in actual votes in order to win. You've already identified your voter universe, appended phone numbers to their voter records and set up your CampaignSidekick portal with your issues survey. Now you're ready for action!
By using cheaper means of contact in initial passes, you will reduce the per-voter cost of identification and increase the rate at which identification occurs. Start with robo-surveys, followed by rounds of live-calls. These means of contact also have the advantage of not being constrained by geography.
Once these initial contact attempts have occurred, it is a simple matter to target voters who you haven't talked to and canvass them.
How do I use Voter Identification Data?
Don't just let your voter identification data sit there! Target voters who you believe are persuadable with some kind of follow-up contact to thank them for their input and strengthen your relationship.
Based on the campaigns main issues, letters or direct mail pieces can be sent to give voters more information about the candidate's policies they care the most about. By following up quickly, you can have a response in the voter's hands within 48 hours of initial contact. This is a tried and true strategy for cementing your campaign's relationship with voters.
Your campaign's voter identification phase will generally be your longest phase of voter contact. Your goal is to pull enough voters into the campaign sales funnel that you can win based on their persuasion. Daily attention to progress and the responses from voters will also provide critical intelligence to inform campaign strategy.