Welcome to Louisiana Lefty, a podcast about politics and community in Louisiana, where we make the case that the health of the state requires a strong progressive movement fueled by the critical work of organizing on the ground. Our goal is to democratize information, demystify party politics, and empower you to join the mission. Because victory for Louisiana requires you.
I'm your host, Lynda Woolard. We're on summer break, but we're still turning out mini-pods in the meantime. After last episode's conversation comparing the effectiveness of voter registration to Get Out The Vote, I asked Westley Bayas to return to the podcast to do a deeper dive on GOTV. And since we like to have an action element to our mini-pods, if you'd like to get live trainings on voter turnout and other campaign elements, the National Democratic Training Committee is always hosting events. Right now, they've got several GOTV trainings on their schedule. You can find them at traindemocrats.org. But as always, I'll post the link in the Episode Notes.
Westley Bayas! Thank you so much for joining me on Louisiana Lefty again.
Always a pleasure, always a pleasure.
So we're on vacation right now but we're still turning out mini-pods. And I've asked you to come on and speak to me about Get Out The Vote. Stephen Handwerk and I spoke on the previous mini-pod about the difference between voter registration and Get Out The Vote but I wanted to drill down a little deeper into what GOTV or Get Out The Vote is because we really glossed over that last episode.
I do want to mention before we start that if folks are interested, you and I just did a video on Facebook, it will also go to YouTube, on some of the stuff that's happening nationally with the January 6th Committee and the overturn of Roe v. Wade. So if folks are interested in that current events kind of stuff, we post those on Facebook. But the podcast is meant to be more evergreen material. You also joined us on our first season. So if folks are interested in your political origin story and your favorite superhero, they can go back and listen to your episode, which I'll link to in the in the Episode Notes.
Westley, what is Get Out The Vote and what is not Get Out The Vote?
Get Out The Vote, also known as GOTV, to use a $2 word, is the culmination of a months long process that you've done with your field operation. If you've been knocking on doors, if you've been making phone calls, if you've been sending those texts and getting answers and responses back, if you've been doing those paid phone calls and getting answers and responses back, all of that information, lets you know who your supporters are, and who are not your supporters or who are undecided. And GOTV is specifically designed to ensure that those people you have found that are your supporters are actually going to vote.
And if you're in a Democratic versus Republican election, more times than not, you have a general sense based upon party, gender, ethnicity, who are the types of voters that will vote for the Democrat or Republican. So you're trying to turn out as many of those groups of people as possible, because you know that there is a 70, 80, 90% chance that they're going to vote for your candidate. I think a very basic example is that most times when there is a Democrat versus Republican candidate, and you go into African American communities, Black people are going to vote for Democrats usually 80, 85, 90% of the time. So in GOTV, if you have not identified a number of Black supporters, you may say, "Hey, we need to make sure the week or two before the election, let's go into African American communities. Let's see how many people we can encourage to go out to vote."
What GOTV is not - and this is really important because I think I see this in the context of Louisiana and jungle primaries - Get Out The Vote is not as a random buckshot approach in which you're trying to find the people who are likely to vote or within the last three or four days, you're just calling people hoping you can make the argument to get them to vote for you. GOTV is not necessarily spending the last week of only doing sign waving on street corners right?
Now that we have early voting and mail in voting (in previous times, GOTV might start two or three days before an election) now in a place like Louisiana, it's going to start three weeks before the election, because there are people that will be voting the first day of early vote, there'll be people that will be returning their mail in ballots. So you have even more time to be able to really center in on: who are my supporters, and how am I making sure that they are going to turn out to vote. But it's not just calling random people the day before the election and saying, "Hey, I don't know if you've heard of me before, but I'm running tomorrow, will you vote for me?"
I've seen candidates, and I'm not trying to be mean, just trying to be real, I've seen candidates who do "Get Out The Vote" only for social media. So they might go knock doors in a neighborhood and get some nice video footage and some nice stills for their social media. But they're knocking random doors, and they're knocking a dozen doors, just for the image. So it looks like they're doing this thing. And, look, I think social media matters. So that's fine if it also has an actual real GOTV component happening alongside of that. So I get my feelings personally hurt when I see candidates only doing that and not doing a real GOTV program, because I feel like it gives field a bad name, right? I feel like people say "That candidate did field and they lost." But they didn't really do field. So that's a little worrying to me.
But in Louisiana, as you mentioned, if you're running a Democrat versus Republican race, we do in Louisiana have in our data from the Secretary of State, we do have party registration. Not every state has that. So we can tell if someone is a Democrat.
That's right. And you know, if you have access to vote builder, or some other additional enhanced databases, they usually will have scores that are built off of statistical models that can give a likelihood of how much a particular voter is likely to vote Democratic versus Republican. So there are many tools to your point, Lynda, when it is a Democratic versus Republican election where you can make sort of general assumptions.
But most of the time, if you're in the municipal elections that we are familiar with in New Orleans or Baton Rouge or Shreveport or Lafayette, where it's multiple Democrats, you have to really dig in a little bit more, because if those candidates do not have a very obvious difference, male versus female candidate, young versus old, even race, black versus white versus whatever, if you have a number of candidates that are all the same type of individual to the average voter, there's not really a difference, right? That's when we end up seeing some of the things that we've heard, well, people will see last name, or they will see somebody that they're familiar with. Having a real important field component that leads into GOTV, allows you to understand who are your supporters. Unless you're maybe running for school board of state house or state senate, most campaigns don't have the time, resources, and people to touch every single person that is likely to vote. You need to do really good field on the front end to understand who your supporters are and what they look like. So you can make some assumptions.
If I'm running, and you cannot see I'm a black man, if I'm running for office, and I notice that out of my 500 supporters, that 300 of them happen to be Black men, even though I've talked to a bunch of different people, I can make an assumption that if I somehow turn out more Black men to vote in this election, most of them are going to vote for me, right? That's a good assumption. What is not a good assumption is "Hey, there's 10,000 people that are gonna vote in this election. I'm just gonna call them the week of and hope things work out."
Right. And so part of what we're talking about also, in order to have a successful Get Out The Vote program, you have to make early investments as a candidate in a field program, so that you have people even if you're paying people to make phone calls for you. Because frankly, it's hard to get volunteers to make all those calls for you. But there are companies that will make calls and can do it really quickly. They can get through tens of thousands of calls in a day or two. That's an excellent investment. Having some kind of door knock is an excellent investment, depending on where you live if you're not in a rural area where it's just a little hard to do. But all of those things as an early investment, even the texting, sometimes you can get enough data back from texting to be able to see who will support you or who's persuadable that you need to speak to more, that requires an early investment.
From the other side, if you're someone trying to support a candidate or support a party, that means donating early helps them make that early investment. So putting money, early money, we talk about early money being so much more meaningful than late money.
early money, early money,
I'm dealing with it now. I have a number of candidates in Pennsylvania who are running for state house. First of all, even though their Election day is the same day as it is in Louisiana and other places, first Tuesday of November, the candidates have already started knocking doors, like last month. In a place like back home, people may wait till August, September. And you know like I know that is way too late. Right. The second thing is, to your point, the early money is much more valuable than late money. Because when you can put in your field investments, where you can do your texting, your phone banking, your canvassing early, that early information allows you to do a couple of different things. It allows you to tighten what your message is going to be. So when you're making that large investment of your campaign, you heard my podcast before, like 60 to 70% is going to go the field or paid media. It insures when you're making those large investments the last couple of months over the election, like you have a message that resonates with the voters you've talked to.
And then if you're able to say "I have 300 to 400 supporters early, those are folks you can tap to be volunteers, to be donors. That's information you can share with other potential donors and party officials to say, "My campaign is gaining momentum, right? Like, you need to invest this $5,000 now or $2,500 now, so I can keep the momentum going as we lead into Election Day."
But GOTV does not work unless you have built a real field operation on the front end, that allows you to build relationships with voters and supporters. Because it's one thing to call somebody that you've talked to a couple of times, the week before election to say "Hey Lynda, I know you're supporting me, it's time for you to go vote. How are you getting to the polls?" Versus if I've never called Lynda, and I call her two days before and I say "Hey, I'm Westley,, I'm running for city council and I'd love to get your vote in the next couple of days," the reality is, at this point, Lynda might have plans on Saturday.
Or "I voted early, Jack!"
I voted early last week, right? That's another thing too, if you are going to do GOTV, data maintenance and hygiene is important because you need to make sure that you are activating the people that are most likely for you to vote. Because what you also want to be able to do is find out who are the people who are likely not to vote for me. So I don't tell them anything. They don't need to hear from me for about anything.
You don't want to remind them to vote, period.
Yeah. I don't need to remind people that are my haters that like you hate me. You can just keep that at home. Right? That's not suppression. That's just what it is. Get Out The Vote is extremely important because when you get to the end of the election, a lot of times people may want to be able to vote but they forget, or in a place like Louisiana, we have a festival since our election day's on Saturday. So part of it is, if you have supporters, you have to make sure that you tell them what's the process to vote early or vote by mail, so that way they can vote for you if they're not going to be in town. So it's a very complicated, logistics-heavy, thoughtful process that when done correctly, you have a lot of confidence on Election Day on how you're going to do because you know the people that are going to support you. You know how many of them are turning out to vote. You know how many votes you need to win. It makes it a lot easier to make decisions on election day as opposed to losing your stuff because you're not able to know what's happening on the ground.
I can tell you, anecdotally, the last campaign I was involved in, from all the field work we had done - and I was actually working for a PAC, not a candidate - from all the field work we had done, and all the work that a related group had done, we were able to see that we had identified enough supporters for the candidate we were supporting before Election Day. So we knew if we turned them out, we had the election. We did win. But that was a good feeling going into Election Day that "We got this."
It makes it so much easier than when you're recruiting volunteers or trying to get that late money for your operations to say, "We have the votes to win, we have identified them, we just need your money, your energy, your volunteerism, to get all of these people that we have identified who say they will support us to actually do what they say they're gonna do."
And someone just told me recently, I had no idea that the Emily of Emily's list - I assumed it was someone's Grandma - is an acronym: Early Money Is Like Yeast. I had no idea of that until I just heard that. But by the same token, I want to say if your candidate gets to the run off, same thing. That's a month that you have to run a second little election. So getting money to your candidate that you're supporting the day after the primary is critical.
Let me add two pieces to that. A very good field operation, leading to GOTV, you'll know the week before that primary that, "Okay, we're gonna get into a runoff. So I'm going to go to all my donors the week before and say I need you to donate to me now. Because once this election is done, and I'm in the runoff, I need to start my operation immediately. The election may be Saturday, but on Monday, I'm starting the second election, we can't take a break off."
So that early money is really important. And field operations really help to drive early money, particularly in a runoff because the more information you have, whether it is through your canvas operations, through polling, whatever, anything that you can show that you have forward thinking planning, that you're ready for the next election, gives confidence to donors, particularly the donors that write the large checks, that like you are actually going to be able to use these dollars in the best way possible. Your runoff planning should not start the first day of the runoff. Your runoff planning should start two weeks prior to the first day of the runoff. Because you need to be able to know, "I can turn this switch on as soon as the results come in."
So being able to show your plan to donors is really significant. Because if you are wanting to get that early money, being able to lay out your plan, and show everything you plan to do as far as contacting voters, how many voters you're going to contact, how many you need to contact to win. All of that is something that gives donors confidence in giving you and your campaign money. Obviously, you have to have the same values as that donor and all the other good things that they want to hear from you, "How do I know that you're going to be able to accomplish the things you say you want to accomplish?" You have to have all of those things aligned. But also having that written plan of how you're going to get the folks that you're going to get out to vote before GOTV is what gives them the confidence to give you the money.
That's correct. Whether it's in business, in school or family life, if you're able to be able to show a thoughtful, written-out plan, where you have been able to as best as possible anticipate all of the different things that can happen, all the different factors, and you show that you're prepared for whatever may happen, that's how down I mean, that's how we get anybody to buy into anything. And particularly in politics, because elections cost a lot of money now, right? It's a couple of hundred thousand dollars to run for state senate or the state house or city council. And people want to know that their investments are going to be used in the right way possible. And building that confidence is just part of not just trying to win that election, but thinking a little bit towards the future, if you're an elected official, to be able to show that you have the ability as an elected to actually execute your ideas because you have given real thought on how to be able to build up your plan. It's critical.
And let me just be clear, I think I may have said it in the first podcast, everything should be written down. Everything has to be written down and accessible to everybody who's part of the team. Whether it's the GOTV, whether it's your campaign plans, whatever, it has to be written down, once it's written down, it means that you put your name on it, it means you're saying it with confidence, you're saying that this is what you believe is the best idea. So please make sure those are set particularly for GOTV.
If you have the resources, if your election is big enough, you're hiring a separate person just to do your Get Out The Vote and they are just focusing on that piece. Because that is a very critical and important piece, particularly if it goes beyond just sort of we have counted and we know our number of votes. If you have to do canvassing on that day, or phone banks, you have to be able to make sure you have buses and food. There's logistics to make sure you can move people around. So you have to give yourself time, whether you're a super large campaign that can hire somebody else or if you're a smaller campaign, you have to give yourself the time to be prepared for those two or three weeks, because everything in an election comes down to those three weeks.
Let me tell you, one of the things we can have Democratic groups doing in this state, whether they're DPECs, or just local Democratic clubs, is learning how to set up their own GOTV programs, so that when they have a local Democrat running, who may not have the money or infrastructure to accomplish that, they could step in and do that. When it's time for people to start voting, they could step in and contribute to that candidate's win. So that's something that folks could be planning on their own to do without having to be the candidate. They can raise money to do this and they can create and build that infrastructure, to your point, because if you need buses, or food or any of that stuff, that's something our Democratic support groups or progressive support groups could actively be working towards right now.
You know, Lynda, we've known each other for 15 years, I'm only going to plus 100 that. 110%. In a perfect world, our Democratic committees and clubs would already have operations. They would know who are the likely Democrats and the likely Democratic volunteers. So when they endorse somebody or support the Democrat, they just say, "Here's 200 people you can contact because they're Democrats, they're big time Democrats, and they'll volunteer." And to your point, it gives even more utility for these organizations, right? It's one thing just to be able to do endorsements. It's another thing when you can knock on doors, and turn out votes for your endorsements and give them things especially to your point for campaigns that may not be able to have the resources, if they know that their organizing groups or these committees can help support them, you know, they can give you 20, 30, 40,000 dollars worth of in kind support just by having the operations and the buses. So to build that longer term power that we need in Louisiana, particularly on the Democratic side is not going to be just from our elected officials. It's really going to be, as I know you like to say all the time and I agree, the grassroots building a long term structure to activate power, to activate citizens, residents who can see that there is change that's possible.
Sounds good Wesley, thank you so much for joining me for the vacation mini-pod, really appreciate it.
No problem. Thank you for having me. It's always good.
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