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What’s the deal with GOTV? An FAQ for the Uninitiated

Elliot Rysenbry

While many of you have a background in politics or organizing, there’s likely some of you scratching your head and wondering just what the heck this “GOTV” business is all about.

Not to worry! Here’s a quick GOTV FAQ to help you get up to speed - and if you need more info (or you're an old hand who already knows all about GOTV), check out this GOTV myth-busting video from The Campaign Workshop. 

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OK, so what does GOTV stand for?

GOTV stands for Get Out The Vote, which is the final phase of a field campaign. Its purpose is to activate the voters that support your campaign (or your cause), and get them down to their local polling place to cast a ballot on Election Day. Basically, it’s the process of turning abstract support into real, tangible votes.


When is GOTV conducted?

GOTV doesn’t happen on one specific day, but rather over the whole period in which voting occurs - from the second early voting begins to the last minute before the polls close. It’s the last stage of a field campaign, after they’ve canvassed to gauge support in the electorate, registered their supporters to vote, and tried to persuade voters on the fence to join their camp.


What do you “do” during GOTV?

Great question! There are a number of GOTV strategies, but the most common generally involve calling and going door-to-door to ask registered voters to commit to vote. Typically this includes asking them to make a plan cast their ballot, as well as providing would-be voters with all the information and assistance they need to locate and get to their polling location.

On Election Day aka the final day the polls are open and when most people vote, this can involve providing transportation assistance, monitoring polling locations to make sure that everyone is able to exercise their right to vote, and last minute calling and door knocking efforts.

There are also less traditional tactics involving online ads or social media that campaigns can use to encourage people to get out and vote, although these techniques are less common than boots-on-the-turf organizing tactics.


Where does it happen?

Literally everywhere. From urban neighborhoods in Brooklyn to snowy rural areas in Alaska, GOTV is going on right now - and will continue until the polls close nationally.


Cool, that makes sense. Why is everyone so worked up about it?

GOTV is one of the most critical moments of a campaign that can make the difference between victory and defeat. Whether you’re turning out voters to elect a candidate, or to further a cause like climate change remediation or promoting gun safety, GOTV is what turns voices into votes.

All set? If youve got more questions we highly reccomend volunteering for your local candidate (they'll give you a practical education real quick), or watching this video about 15 GOTV myths and truths

Topics: Organizing