Get out the vote

Get out the vote

"Get out the vote," sometimes "GOTV," is a term used to describe two categories of political activity, both aimed at increasing the number of votes cast in one or more elections.

Impartial contexts

In impartial contexts "Get out the vote" is a slogan (and "get out the vote" is a generic grammatical predicate) used by non-partisan organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, [ Long Distance Voter] , and [ GoVoteAbsentee] , motivated by the belief that failure of any eligible voter to vote in any election entails a loss to society.

Campaign contexts

In contexts of the efforts of candidates, party activities and ballot measure campaigns, "get-out-the-vote" (or GOTV) is an adjective indicating having the effect of increasing the number of the campaign's "supporters" who will vote in the immediately approaching election. (As a noun, "get out the vote" or GOTV is shorthand for either "get-out-the-vote activities" or "the previously planned get-out-the-vote portion of our campaign".)

GOTV generally is distinguished from preliminary activities necessary to carrying it out. That is, GOTV includes telephoning known supporters on the day of the election (or occasionally in the last few days before it to remind them to vote, and providing rides to the polls to known supporters), but the process of identifying those supporters is generally described as a separate part of the campaign, voter identification -- the major focus of canvassing.

Other GOTV activities include literature drops early on election day or the evening before and an active tracking of eligible voters who have already voted.

The importance of get out the vote efforts increases as the total percentage of the population voting decreases. For instance, with only two-thirds of the population voting in a Canadian election it is often far easier and more cost effective to ensure that a hundred supporters show up on polling day than it is to convince a hundred voters to switch support from one party to the other. This has also tended to polarize electoral politics. A 90% turnout from a party's radical base is often better than a 50 percent turnout from both radical and moderate supporters.

GOTV can also be extremely important in high turn-out elections when they are extremely close. In these elections turnout can be critical in determining the election results.

Reading system

The traditional GOTV method used in the UK is the Reading system, developed by the Reading constituency Labour Party and its MP Ian Mikardo for the 1945 general election. [How to Win an Election, Paul Richards, Second Edition, p. 88] Once canvassing was performed to identify likely Labour voters, these were compiled onto 'Reading pads' or 'Mikardo sheets' featuring the names and addresses of supporters and pasted onto a large table or plank of wood. On election day these lists - with identical copies underneath - were torn off and given to GOTV campaigners.

At each polling station, tellers for each party will collect the unique poll numbers of voters from their polling cards. These numbers are regularly collected from the polling stations and collated in a campaign headquarters, oftern referred to in the UK as committee rooms. 'Promised voters' who have already voted are then crossed off the list of voters canvassed as supporting Labour. This enables campaigners to then focus more efficiently on the remainder of their supporters who have not voted. Computerisation has heralded further increases in efficiency, but nearly all subsequent methodologies can be traced back in some form to the Reading system.

Negative campaigning and voter suppression

The terminology reflects a distinction of GOTV from the complementary strategy of suppressing turnout among likely opposition voters. Political consultants are reputed to privately advise some candidates to "go negative" (attack an opponent), without any intent to sway voters toward them: this plan is to instead increase the number of eligible voters who "fail to vote", because their tendency to believe "politics is inherently corrupt" has so recently been reinforced. Such turnout suppression can be advantageous where any combination of three conditions apply:
#The negative campaigning is targeted (by direct mail, telephone "push polls," or the like) on likely opposing voters, reducing the collateral damage to supporters morale.
#The side going negative has an advantage in its supporters being steadier voters than those of its opponent.
#The side going negative has an advantage in doing effective GOTV, so that its campaign workers can get a GOTV "antidote" to more supporters "poisoned" by the negative campaign, than the opposing campaign can of their own supporters.

ee also

* Canvassing - an integral precursor to a GOTV operation
* Election campaigns
* PIG (elections)
* List of democracy and elections-related topics


External links

* [ Tilting the Playing Field: Voter ID & Turnout]
* [ US Federal and State Voter ID Requirements]

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