John Tsarpalas: So today we are going to talk about all the things that happen on Election Day. And I am going to take it in sort of a chronological order, although it is not by day. It’s kind of by the hour. It’s what happens on Election Day, Commonwealthy #49.
So as you can imagine, the build up to Election Day is huge. And there are so many parts and people that you need to have plugged into your Get Out the Vote plan. You’ve got lots of different volunteers doing lots of different projects and different things on Election Day.
I thought I would run through Election Day in time order and give you some ideas of what those volunteers are doing, staff is doing if you have them or volunteers who have taken key managerial roles, as well as you as a candidate. What are you doing on Election Day?
One of the first campaigns I was ever involved in, we didn’t know what to do on Election Day, but we had no idea about Get Out the Vote. So that was pretty foolish of us. But we didn’t, live and learn.
And let me go back to that thought one more time. If you are not ID-ing voters, recording who is supporting you, and getting them to the polls, odds are you will lose. If your opponent is doing that and you are not, you don’t have a chance.
The voter ID Get Out the Vote method is absolutely the best way to know and control your fate. Sure, you can run a few ads. You can talk to a few people. If it is a very small race, you might not need it. But you would be better off if you did it!
So go back and listen to those podcasts, like Commonwealthy #42, Get Out the Vote in a Political Campaign. It’s huge.
Alright, so we are jumping into Election Day. One of the first things that happens that morning, and sometimes it happens in the middle of the night, is putting signs up at the polls.
Part of me hesitated to even talk about this because I don’t know what this is worth in terms of votes. But everybody always panics when you don’t have a sign in front of their poll and they are your supporter. And quite frankly, I don’t give a whatever because I don’t think a sign in front of a polling place is going to do much. I don’t think it convinces anybody to vote for you. But your volunteers and those people involved in your campaign will panic when they don’t see your signs in front of the polls.
So here’s what I do. I recruit some people that need to go to work that could get out really early in the morning. Often it is the person that you’ve assigned or has volunteered to be your sign coordinator.
I ask them to go find some other people. If you’ve got a big district, you need people in different parts of the district. If it is a smaller district, then one person maybe can handle it.
And they go to the polls before the polls open. I am in Illinois; the polls open at 6 am. They should be out there at 4 am, from 4 to 6 setting up signs. Every state has different rules on where those signs can go. Here in Illinois they have to be a hundred feet away from the polling place.
You will see where everybody else has stuck their signs. The machine Democrats in this area do all the signs for all of their candidates at once. They’ve got crews of union guys that go out and do that kind of thing. So you’ll often see where they are already stuck the signs.
The concept is put the signs where people pulling into the polling place are going to see them, if they are walking up, if they are driving up, or if they are parking. What is going to be visible?
And I do not buy extra signs for Election Day. I just put out everything that is left. You should have yard signs. You should have been handing them out to people as you were IDing and you are making your phone calls. You are asking people who are supporting you if they would mind. Actually you are going to beg and plead. You are going to say, “It is really important to put up a yard sign. It would really help John Doe’s campaign. Would you mind putting a yard sign up?”
Okay, so you get the signs over there. Anything I’ve got left, I put them up at the polls. If you don’t have enough signs to go to every polling place, pick the ones that are going to have the most people showing up that you need to vote for you.
If this is a primary, you are going pick those polls, those precincts, that have the most Republican voters. You are going to go in order of those. You would have ranked them early on in your analysis and targeting of where you would be working.
So it is a Republican primary; you are going there. If it is a nonpartisan race, you are going to areas where you think you have the most support and put those signs up there. And if it is just basic Republican-Democrat general election, again you are going to put signs where you think the independents are going to be- swing voters, split ticket voters- to remind them of your name because they might not remember you as much. So three different strategies depending on the type of election you are putting signs out for.
Okay, so these guys have all the signs in their car or truck. They are out there at four am and they are sticking signs up around the polls. They have a map and a list of where to go. They know how to get there.
And this got assigned one, two, three weeks, or a month before. You are not thinking about this on Election Day. These volunteers are just going to do it. That’s the first thing that happens.
The next thing that happens is some people need to get to your campaign headquarters or wherever you are going to be making phone calls. One role that I love to have is I recruit somebody who is knowledgeable about what is going on.
Often Tina and I have this friend who is an attorney. She understands election law. She understands election fraud. She also understood our campaigns and she understood what is happening in our office on Election Day.
We’d have her come in a half hour before the polls opened. Why? Because election judges and poll watchers are lost, confused, having problems and need someone to call and complain to. You do not as a candidate or campaign manager want to be the one answering the phone. You’ve got lots of other things to do.
Our lady was named Tanya. Tanya was the best thing we ever did. Tanya would show up at 5:30 am and she would help set up the office and answer the phone. She’d also sit right at the front door so as people came in, she was the receptionist. She greeted them: “Good morning. Hi! Welcome. What are you here to do? How are you going to help today?” That kind of a thing.
And she would point them to who she needed to refer them to. If they were phone bankers, she would get them to the person leading the phone banking. If they were poll watchers, she’d ask what they needed. She knew all the jobs and she knew how to set them up and take care of them.
And she answered the phone. Because the phone is going to ring with election problems. “This poll didn’t open at 6. It’s still closed. What’s going on?” “I want to vote for your candidate, but I don’t know where to vote.”
Tanya would have a laptop at her desk. She could look up through the Board of Elections that person’s name and address and what polling place they needed to go to. She also had a paper list of polling places. And she had ways to help people to find where they needed to vote.
This is an important job. It’s somebody who needs practice and training. Perhaps you can get somebody who is experienced at campaigns. A good place to recruit that person would be from your local GOP organization, even if this is a nonpartisan race.
Tanya I met from New Trier Republicans. We used her in other races and we used in nonpartisan or off year races that were not Republican or Democrat. Yeah right! But they weren’t; supposedly they were nonpartisan.
Tanya was great to have. Tanya is still great to have if you can go find her! Go find yourself a Tanya and get yourself somebody who is going to work those phones on Election Day for you. It’s important. And it takes a lot of burden off of you.
As long as we are talking about election law attorneys, it’s not bad to have recruited an election law attorney or two or have hired one that you have on call. And you have their cell phone numbers and their contact numbers. Most election law attorneys on Election Day are in ready to go, SWAT team mode.
If you are in a small race, you are not in a horrible neighborhood in terms of Democrats with a lot of cheating going on, you probably are not going to need them. It’s not bad to have a phone number that you can call if you sense something really bad is going on.
But it would be lovely if you had someone who is an attorney or someone who is used to being assertive. Often we got the township committeeman, your local county GOP chairman, on that day to serve in this role to go out if you are hearing about problems at a polling place.
You should have some people you can send out if something comes up. We would send them over to see why things were closed and what was going on. Was it some kind of, just mishap, like equipment not working, where things are not right? Or literally was something going on to try to block the vote and mess with the vote? So have someone assertive that you can send out in case you need them.
There are a couple of things we need to have thought about in advance that are germane to what I just talked about. One of those is you should have your Board of Elections phone number hotline readily available. You know what it is. You’ve got it there taped on the front desk and in your wallet so if there is trouble, you know where to call.
If this is a partisan race and your county clerk is also a Republican, you should know that county clerk and should have a hotline number for that county clerk or perhaps their cell phone number so that you can call if you’ve got problems and get help.
If you are in a Democrat area like I am, I am not going to get a lot of help. But I am going to call the Board of Elections and complain. And they will send people out. And for the most part, they are trying to do what is right because they don’t want bad press or bad publicity about it.
Something else that’s changed over the years is, landlines aren’t around as much anymore. So if you’ve got an office with a landline, you should let all your poll watchers, election judges, and other people know that that’s the hotline. That’s the place to call if there is trouble so that your Tanya can answer that phone and be taking those calls.
If you don’t have a landline, and most small campaigns don’t anymore, then you need to establish a phone number that is the hotline, like someone’s cell. Again, perhaps it’s your Tanya if you’ve recruited her. Get her phone lined up for that purpose.
But you’ve got to find a phone that’s dedicated for that purpose. It should not be the campaign manager’s phone. It should not be the candidate’s phone. You’ve got other things to do and you don’t need to be handling these calls.
So try to establish that well in advance. You are thinking about this months before Get Out the Vote. And you’ve got these phone numbers arranged and these people arranged so you know these calls are going to get fielded somewhere and dealt with and go to that hotline number.
The other thing I might have mentioned already but I am going to say it again is you should have printed lists of all the polling places and their locations. Have a map up so that people can quickly look at a map and find where those are. So if your runners need to go out to a polling place, they can look at a map. Yeah, they can sit down and google it and they can do Google maps on their phone, which has changed. But often it is easier to have a map right there that you can see quickly.
So these are things you need to have prepared in advance, but readily available for Election Day because that’s when you are going to need them.
Already, back to the office. So it’s 5:30 in the morning. The polls open at 6. You are getting there. You’ve got your person that is going to answer the phone, your Tanya. And you’ve got your phone bank coordinator coming in about 6 and your data person comes in first thing, too.
Your campaign should have recruited somebody along the way to handle data issues for you, do the inputting, and keep track of things. They helped you print walk lists and phone lists. They made sure things were syncing if you’ve got different call systems, then your main database or just knew how to make your database work.
If you are using a Voter Gravity, there is somebody who understands what is happening in the dashboard and how to get things done. They would have printed out walk lists in advance and phone call lists for Get Out the Vote in advance in case your computer systems crash. You want paper back up. So a few days before or the weekend before, they would have started printing lists and have all those lists printed before Election Day gets there.
But they show up on Election Day and they hang around to make sure everything is working correctly, that things that need to be hand entered are getting entered, and making sure that things are staying current. They will have downloaded the latest early voting list into the system so that you’ve taken those people out of your pool of people to Get Out the Vote.
And they will make sure that people understand how to use their handheld devices. All that kind of training for poll watchers and people doing turnout should have happened the weekend before the election, if not earlier than that. But they are there because there are always glitches and you want to make sure that your data person is there. It’s nice to have a back-up data person if that’s possible as well.
Alright so your phone bankers, people that are going to call people to Get Out the Vote, come in at 8:30 or 8:45. You’ve got coffee and donuts there. You’ve assigned somebody to stock the office with drinks, snacks, and coffee and donuts.
They are going to show up and you are going to have them start calling at 9. You don’t want them calling before 9; it’s considered rude. In the phone bank, hopefully you’ve got automatic dialing.
If you using a Voter Gravity system, they brought their laptop in. They brought their cell phone and it is automatically syncing the laptop and the phone and dialing for that phone and going through the Get Out the Vote list. Your people are on the phones calling.
If it is paper, you are starting with your heavier precincts and you are working your way through. Then you are turning those lists in after they’ve all been called and starting on the next precinct.
Hopefully you listen to Commonwealthy #48, Election Judges and Poll Watchers, and you realize what is happening in the polling places. You would have worked with your local organization to make sure that there were election judges assigned to your polls. And you would have talked to some of those election judges to see if they would poll watch for you. And you would have recruited poll watchers.
Your poll watchers would have shown up just before the polls opened. In Illinois, that’s at 5:45 am; polls open at 6. They would have gotten in just before, gotten settled with the judges, and turned in their credentials. They would be there with their handheld devices or paper checking off those voters who come in first thing in the morning.
There’s usually a rush of voters in the morning. The morning is usually the busiest time for voting. From 6 to 9, it’s usually very busy. As I said in the last podcast about poll watchers, you want to make sure you’ve got the majority of your poll watching happening in the morning because that is going to tick off the most voters (and I mean not make them angry but check them off) from your list of who has voted so that you can quit calling. As that data gets back into the database, that pool of people remaining to call gets smaller.
Now, if you don’t have handheld devices or things are not working properly and you don’t have a system that operates like that, you are going to need some people that I call “runners”. A runner is someone who goes out to the poll and picks up lists from the poll watchers.
I usually start my first round of runners at around 9 or 10 because they’ve been at the polls for a few hours. If they open at 6, they’ve been in there three hours. The runners go around and pick up the lists from the poll watcher. If the poll watcher is staying, they stay with a new list if it is paper.
You should have your runner have extra lists with them and those are all preprinted in advance. The runners drop off a new list and takes the old list so that the poll watcher has somewhere to continue to check off.
Often, if a poll watcher was only going to be there until 9 or 10 and they need to go to work, I’d ask them to drop off the list off at headquarter. Or I also gave them specific instructions: “Do not leave until the runner gets there.”
So your runners are people you need to recruit who have a vehicle who can get around. They need to come into headquarters about 8 o’clock. Make sure that they have their extra papers lists. And make sure that they know what is going on.
Sometimes you will get out to a poll as a runner and someone’s phone didn’t work, they forgot to charge it, or all kinds of other little things that happen and they started making a list on paper. That’s fine. It’s not a bad thing to have runners even if you are not on paper to go around and check your poll watchers. Just stop in.
By the way, runners need credentials. In order to come into that poll and talk to the poll watcher, they have to have a credential. You remember that you get your credentials from the Board of Elections. They have to be signed by the candidate of that campaign.
You want them to have multiple credentials because theoretically, every time they go into a poll, they are supposed to leave that credential in that poll with a judge and it gets filed into the paper work of that polling place.
So they’ve got multiple credentials with them. They are going in and they are talking to your poll watchers. “Is everything working? How is it going? What’s the turnout like?” Et cetera, Et cetera. And they can then call you and say, “Things are going well” or
“Things are having problems at this polling place” or “So-in-so needs such-in-such” and straighten out problems early on.
So runners are important. Not only if are they picking up paper, but they can be out there double checking things.
So what’s the candidate doing on this morning? Well, something I like to do with a candidate is last minute try to win the vote. If you’ve got a really big district, it’s often good to put a candidate at a train station shaking hands: “Did you vote this morning? Please vote for me on your way home.” That kind of thing.
Or find precincts that have a heavy vote that’s split (that’s independent) that you really need, but you can’t count on. If this is a partisan race, this isn’t the heavy Republican area that’s voting Republican for you. This is an area that’s got a good turnout, but they are independent voters. They tend to go either way.
Put your candidate out in front of that poll shaking hands and greeting people. “Hi, I’m John Doe and I am running for county board in your area. Would you consider voting for me? Is there is an issue you haven’t been able to understand where I stand?” Things like that. Talking to the voters and greeting. This will really help get your vote total up in that precinct.
You can also recruit people to stand out in front of a poll with a card, a little short card, of highlights in bullet points, your candidate’s name, and if there is a number on the ballot (you are in the number nine position, the number thirteen position). It will say, “Vote #12, John Doe for County Board.”
They have done studies on people standing out in front of the polls. They say you can get one to two percent more vote out of it. I don’t know. I have done this. I have done this myself. I’ve recruited people to do it.
It seems to help. I think it helps especially for more down ballot things. It isn’t going to change somebody’s mind for president. But if you are running for a state rep, county seat, or school board, people don’t know you. They get confused about the ballot.
Judges, too. If you are judge candidate, go stand in front of a poll and introduce yourself to people. And if you can have some people out there handing out your little piece of information and saying, “Hi, I am here for Judge Judy Smith. I like her because…” “I like her because she is tough on crime” or “She’s got ten years of experience as a prosecutor.” And they hand the card.
That can help. But again, only if you’ve got enough people already manning your phone banks that can cover all your Get Out the Vote people. You already got poll watchers checking off who is to show up. You are going through these other steps.
But your candidate can be doing this. And your candidate should do that during the peak time. After 9 o’clock, it starts to drop off. Then the candidate, I think, should go around from poll to poll, checking on the poll watchers. In essence, he’s sort of being a runner.
And by the way, have credentials with you. I already told you how to that. But the candidate should be bring credentials with him because the judges don’t know who you are. Maybe they do, but often they don’t.
Something else that the candidate might want to do on that day is talk to the media and press. It depends on your race and whether they are paying attention. It is often a good day to get out a press release or make a comment to a journalist.
Go find places where there are people. That candidate all day on Election Day should be finding places where there are people. If you don’t know where to go, then stand in front of a poll. But say there is a busy grocery store. You can go stand in front of there and remind people it’s the election and to go vote for you. As I said, a train station in the morning.
I like to stand in front of post offices that are closed to the sidewalk because legally you can stand on the sidewalk. If I go to a Walmart, well, I am on Walmart property; they can ask you to leave. But if you are on a sidewalk or a street, they can’t chase you out.
So if there is a place where there is a busy street… if you are in an urban area, you are standing on the sidewalk in front of a busy supermarket or drugstore. You can’t stand in the door of the supermarket, but you can stand on the sidewalk. So there is no problem there.
And you should continue to do that all day long as a candidate. You want to try to meet as many people last minute, let them know who you are, and hopefully ask for their vote and convince them to go in and vote for you. It can’t hurt. What else are you going to do? Sit around?
Something else that happens, and sometimes candidates do that, is delivering coffee and donuts to the polling places for your poll watchers and judges. Don’t give them to the Democrats; just give them to your judges.
You can also do lunches if you’ve got some money and you can do that. If you’ve got time, you can go around and deliver them and thank them for helping your campaign. This can also be with some volunteers if you have enough people. It’s a really nice touch. The poll watchers and the judges really appreciate it. It helps build sort of a team camaraderie.
Something else that used to happen more and doesn’t happen much anymore is having some people available to drive people to the polls. Boy, in the last few elections, if I got one or two people that need a ride to the polls… But there are always senior citizens that need a ride.
This used to be happen more before there was early voting and absentee voting. People couldn’t get to the polls. But now they figure out how to get to early voting and vote or they request an absentee ballot. They get it done that way.
Often I will have somebody that is phone banking. I will make arrangements with them that they will have a car. If something comes up, they can run out and go pick somebody up. Or I will have some people that I have their cell phone. They will be around their neighborhood all day. I can just simply call them. They are arranged to drop everything and go pick somebody up that needs a ride.
It’s a nice thing to do. It doesn’t happen often. But you should be prepared and have somebody that can give somebody a ride to the polls if it is necessary.
Then there is one more thing in Get Out the Vote that Tina and I use and we were very effective with. That is door knocking on Election Day. We usually hit the phone banks hard in the morning. You’ve called people. Then you’ve done another round and you called those who didn’t show up again. You’ve called them again.
Along the way, if no one was answering the phone, you’ve left voicemail messages. If you have an automatic system, you just push the button and it leaves the prerecorded message, which has a lot of urgency in that message. “Today’s the election. It is going to be very close. We need you to show up. Your polling place is George Washington School at Elm and Main. The polls close at 7. We really need your vote. Please get there.”
Okay, so they got that message. They got that message live or they go it recorded. But there are people you still have not talked to; you’ve left messages. Tina and I spoke about this in earlier podcasts. This was Tina’s idea and it worked so well for us in many elections.
We print up a large day-glow orange card that is 8.5” by 11” or bright yellow. On it says, “It is Election Day. It is going to be a very close election. We need you to vote. The polls close at 7 o’clock.” And we give them to our people that are out door knocking.
And literally they are driving around. They are not walking around because at this point your vote is spread out. You are not turning out every house; you are turning out one on this block and one two blocks over because you’ve hopefully already got more than half your vote in already. It’s noon on Election Day! Actually it should be about seventy or eighty percent of your vote in, if not all of your vote in.
And these are your last minutes that you are really starting to worry about. So these people are going to drive up to the house and ring the bell. You are going to ring the bell and knock because sometimes the doorbell doesn’t work. And you are going to explain all of this to people that you have already taught how to do this.
If nobody answers and nobody answers a door knock, you are then going to take painter’s blue tape because it sticks, but when you remove it, it doesn’t take anything with it. It doesn’t take the paint with it. You are going to tape this card on the front door, the back door, and if there is a side door.
And you are going to tape it right in the middle of the garage door so as they pull up their car to pull into the garage, they see this big day-glow orange thing stuck on their garage door. They get out of their car, take it off, and look at it.
The idea is that you want them to be worried. And this works. Tina and I get so many comments afterwards from voters that say, “I wasn’t going to vote, but I saw all the cards stuck on my doors and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, things must be really in trouble. I got to go!’”
Often they will pull up to the garage door, see the card, pull the card off, read it, get back in the car, and go right to the poll and vote and then go home. This works. If you’ve got manpower, do it! But you are only doing this after you’ve phone banked and phone banked and made a lot of calls.
This happens in the afternoon and this happens up until 7 pm when the polls close. The other thing that is happening is you are continuing to call them. At some point, you will get people answering the phone because they are getting home from work.
You often get one spouse who comes home at 4 or 5 answering the phone, “Oh, we voted.” Okay, then you take them off the list. Or, “Oh, oh my gosh! I forgot! Okay, we will get there. I will let him know.”
Okay, you’ve made contact with them. You probably don’t need to call them anymore. Plus at this point, you don’t have poll watchers anymore usually. Usually your poll watchers have knocked off by about three or four o’clock.
But you keep calling and you keep reminding until literally the poll closes. I’ve quit at one minute to. We have got calls in to people fifteen minutes before the polls closed that I know they made it into the poll just in time.
We have told this story before in earlier podcasts, but I am going to tell it again. Tina and I were in a close nonpartisan race. We had identified our people, but a lot of those people were very busy people and they traveled a lot. We did not drive hard enough to get them to early voting or absentee vote.
So we’d get a hold of somebody at the house and they’d say, “Well, they are coming in to O’Hare Airport at 5:30, but they will never make it in time.” We would literally say, “This election is so close. Can we can information them? Can we get to O’Hare Airport and pick them up and have somebody else bring their car and get their luggage?”
Through texts, emails, and phone calls, we get a hold of that person, meet them at the airport, and drive them directly to the poll, leaving somebody else behind to pick up their baggage and get their car. Or if they don’t have a car, they can at least get their baggage so they are not standing their waiting.
In this one close election that Tina and I were in, we won by two votes. Two votes! Guess what? It was two people that we got from the airport by driving them there that won the election. So don’t think this is crazy. There is no effort too big to go all the way.
You probably should also think about your candidate. At some point, the candidate is going to have to do some press in here. Just be prepared to do that. It’s a good thing to talk to the press. Win or lose, you need them. You’ll need them for the future of your political career.Be prepared with statements. Be prepared to talk to the press.
If you’ve got a communication person and/or you’ve got social media people, on Election Day, they should be pounding it. You need to be tweeting. Remind people to go vote.
You need to be putting things out on your email with multiple email blasts. “There is heavy turnout,” “There is not heavy turnout,” or whatever it may be and a reason why they need to get there to vote for you. You should be texting people. You should be putting things on Facebook. You need to be reminding people through social media to go vote. Whoever does that for you needs to be in full swing the entire day.
Your communications people, if it is a bigger campaign, need to be talking to the press. They need to be trying to get little statements on the radio, “Oh, it’s heavy turnout in Rosemont, Illinois today for those people voting. It is going to be a close one. Let’s remind everybody to vote.” And things like that. And of course a little byline or a little statement like, “This is Joe Schbotnick from the John Doe Campaign for County Treasurer.”
Much to do on Election Day. It’s the Super Bowl of days. I love Election Day. I love the energy. It can be so fun and so exciting. You push and push and push and push until you are exhausted. And you will collapse the next day, but we will talk about that in the next podcast.
As always, we will have show notes of today’s podcast at Commonwealthy.com. If you’ve got questions, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to answer your email questions.
And if you need more help with your campaign, I am a candidate coach. What makes me different than a consultant is I help you to formulate your plans. I can review your plans for you. I can help you with public speaking, fundraising, and Get Out the Vote. I coach you.
And then I hold candidates accountable if they’d like that type of coaching. Many candidates will call me once a week or every other week and report in how many donors they’ve talked to, how many phone calls their volunteers made, and how many doors they knocked. Literally I hold them accountable.
They explain where they are having trouble and difficulty. I help them get through that. I keep them on track to their winning campaign plan, which I can help you formulate. My first half hour of consultation is free. Often it runs a little longer than that. I don’t mind. I will let you know how I can help if you want to use my coaching from beyond that point.
But it is really helpful to most people who talk to me because I come up with some ideas and get them on track in that first half hour. So feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com. Please tell your friends about us. Let other activists and candidates know that we exist. Thanks for listening!