Posted by: Janine Balekdjian, Consular Intern
This Tuesday, voters all across the United States will go to the polls to vote in this year’s elections. The Presidential election, between incumbent Democrat Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney (and a handful of “third party” candidates unlikely to get more than 1% of the vote), gets the most attention in the news, but voters also vote for Senators, members of the House of Representatives, and state and local officials. Americans have been following the news, watching debates, and discussing the issues with each other for well over a year to figure out who they are going to vote for. But not everyone has made up their mind yet or decided for certain that they are even going to get to the polls on Election Day, and that’s where Get Out the Vote comes in.
Get Out the Vote, or GOTV, is a canvassing operation starting the weekend before Election Day and continuing to Election Day itself, in which volunteers go door to door and remind people how important it is to vote and persuade them to vote for their candidate if the voter is still undecided (there are about 5% undecided according to recent polls). Every candidate running has a campaign staff, and while some staffers participate in GOTV, most GOTV workers are volunteers who are passionate about a candidate and want to make sure he or she wins. Students are some of the most enthusiastic GOTV volunteers.
Each campaign uses software and databases to make up lists of important doors to knock on which are within walking distance of each other. Campaigns try to target people who they think will vote for their candidate but might not vote at all unless they are reminded. For example, the Obama campaign might make sure to knock on the doors of registered Democrats who voted in 2008 but not in 2010 (while all Americans’ votes are secret, whether they voted and their party affiliation are not). A volunteer for the Obama campaign would remind the voters they talk to how important each vote is to the President’s chances of victory, ask them if they need a ride to the polls, and if they are undecided, give them some reasons to vote for President Obama rather than his opponent. Governor Romney’s volunteers will be doing the same, taking to each door his argument as to why he would do a better job if elected as the next President of the United States.
The most important thing during GOTV is to knock on as many doors as possible, so volunteers often canvass for 12 hours a day, although they can sign up for as much or as little time canvassing as they want to. Many student political groups take trips to key districts to campaign for the whole weekend. Whether they’re on the knocking or the opening end of the door, everybody in the United States is engaged in the political process this weekend.