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Campaign Boot Camp 7: The Ten-House Election

(Thinking about running for office? RightVoter presents “Campaign Boot Camp,” a series of essential “how to run for office” rules for your campaign.  For the full series, click here.)

Ever have a conversation with your neighbors about how to win an HOA vote?

It’s a lot of rudimentary scheming: Divvy up the list HOA members.  Figure out who’s the best person to talk to each neighbor.  Ask each potential HOA voter whether or not they support your position.  Make a personal, one-on-one pitch.  And then make sure that the ones who’re on your side show up for the big vote.

Congratulations, you’re ahead of many campaigns.  Yes, of course professional advertising is important.  You need direct mail and web sites and yard signs and radio ads and television.

But in the end, it’s about voter contact.  It’s about identifying your voters and getting them to the polls.  It’s about figuring out exactly how to talk to the voters who are undecided.

So here’s a good thought experiment for your campaign:

What if the entire election were limited to just ten households on your block?

What would you do to win that ten-house election?

First, you’d make sure that you knew the names of everyone on your block.  Has someone moved?  Did a teenager turn 18 and register to vote?  You would make a list of the voters.

Second, you’d either call or visit each of your neighbors, one-by-one.  Standing on their front porch, you’d ask them for their opinions about your race.  You’d ask if they’d be willing to support you.

  • If they’re supporters, you’d make a note of their support and offer them a sign for their yard.  You’d ask them about their plans for Election Day and suggest that they vote by absentee ballot.
  • If they’re undecided, you’d spend a few minutes with them to make the case for your candidacy.  You’d tell them which of the other neighbors are supporting you.  You’d give them information about the campaign and where you stand on the issues.  You’d even be able to tailor your pitch to their specific concerns.

Third, you’d swing through the neighborhood a few more times before Election Day, repeating the process, trying to add new names to your supporters list.

Finally, on Election Day, you’d keep count of who had voted… and who hadn’t.  Then you’d do whatever it took to make sure any of your missing supporters voted.  You’d stop by their houses on Election Day offering to shuttle them to the polls.

When you break it down to just ten houses on a single block, campaigning is pretty simple, right?

It’s the same process for every campaign.

  1. Start with – and constantly update – a decent list.
  2. Find out who each voter is voting for.
  3. Persuade the ones who are undecided.
  4. Get out your voters on Election Day.  (GOTV)

Or, to put in it more flowery prose:

“Organize the whole state so that everyone can be brought to the polls… Make a perfect list of all the voters and ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote.

“Keep a constant watch on the doubtful voters and . . . have them talked to by those in whom they have the most confidence . . .

“And on election day see that everyone is brought to the polls.”

It’s a quote from Abraham Lincoln.  Smart guy, that Lincoln.

Your campaign is a ten-house election.  (But there are more than ten houses.)