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Get out the vote

From Academic Kids

"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.

Contents

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 and Rock the Vote, that are nominally or sincerely motivated by the belief that failure of any eligible voter to vote in any election entails a loss to society, rather than a desire to assist a particular party, candidate or campaign.

Campaign contexts

In contexts of the efforts of candidate 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 ("ID-ing") -- 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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. The side going negative has an advantage in its supporters being steadier voters than those of its opponent.
  3. 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.

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 extremely close. In these elections turnout can be critical in determing the election results.

See also

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