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The science of getting the Labour vote out

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A moment of clarification is necessary before I get to this week’s blog content. A Facebook canvassing conversation in our Labour group turned to the topic of ‘doing the board’ and I mentioned that being good at the board was really important as ‘Jon Roser proved last night’. An unfortunate autospell error on the part of my phone changed ‘proved’ to ‘probed’. So, in the interests of abating any impending legal action I’d like to state for the record that, to the best of my knowledge, at no time did Jon probe me or anyone else during canvassing. He was just very good on the board.

‘We’ll be doing GOTV next week so we need a good turnout’.

I saw this message on our WhatsApp group last year when we were helping Lee in Mash Barn. It was my first campaign helping in local elections. Being a little naive to the world of political acronyms, this honestly sounded to me like a breakfast television programme. As my mind flashed to scenes of Lee telling Holly Willoughby or Susanna Reid how the moribund Tory council had failed the people of Mash Barn, I remember noting that Lee must really know his stuff if he can get a national TV channel to take an interest in a Lancing by-election.

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With every promise comes the victory dance

I texted my mum ‘We might be on telly next week, keep an eye out’. I turned up on the Monday evening all smart and clean-shaved. Even splashed a bit of Brut on. Strangely, all I saw were people talking about ‘getting out the vote’. Yeah that’s great guys but where is GOTV? Where’s Lorraine Kelly? Seriously, I’ve got my best ‘Blue Steel’ ready. But nothing, not even Piers Morgan.

Then the penny dropped.

So folks, what is ‘Get Out The Vote?’ (see capitals for those a little slow on the uptake like myself). GOTV means using leaflets and visits to remind Labour voters about the upcoming polling day, make sure that they remember on the day itself, help them to be able to get to the polling booths and ensure that they have actually voted.

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Lee's hair is hard to tame in this windy weather

So folks, here are 5 things to consider about getting the vote out-

  1. First thing to note (auto correct gave me ‘thong’ there instead of ‘thing’, really must watch that (sorry again Jon’s solicitor)), it’s even nicer than canvassing. Canvassing is fun but like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. GOTV is like canvassing in a dream, because you go to the door of like-minded people who are happy to see you because you’re Labour too. And unlike with my dreams, it doesn’t suddenly end with two kids jumping on my stomach shouting “wake up Daddy!” (Note - if GOTV does end with kids jumping on you then something has gone badly wrong. Talk to your canvassing coordinator). So, if you’ve been a bit unsure up until now, GOTV is the nicest introduction to canvassing you can get.
  2. Does GOTV matter? Research tends to come from the US and so one must treat the results with caution. The US version of Get Out The Vote tends to be organised by the Russian Secret Service and includes mandatory stops at Drive-Thrus to gorge on super-size meal deals. Put that to one side however, and our results show that a well-organized effort can gain a candidate significant percentage points in campaigns. This certainly was the case with the recent by-election won by Beccy Cooper in Marine recently. In terms of mobilization, another study has found that door-to-door GOTV canvassing increases turnout among the contacted households by approximately 4.3 percentage points. Research in 2015 determined that GOTV efforts averaged one vote every 15 door knocks by volunteers. In close seats like Southlands and Selden (and now possibly others in our area) that translates to a couple of evenings’ work by a decent sized team. In short, it really matters so if you’ve not managed to help out so far, come join us.
  3. Research shows that when you encourage people to think through the logistical details of their plans for voting — such as when they intend to head to the polls, how they will get there — then it means that they are more than twice as likely to actually vote. Last year at Mash Barn I said “Hi, just letting people know that the election is on next week/tomorrow/today and asking if they know where it is they are voting”. That usually does this trick. (BTW that autocorrect just inserted ‘receding people’ instead of ‘letting people’ in that sentence. Autocorrect clearly doesn’t know how hard it is to win an election only targeting people with receding hair).
  4. Also, voters who live alone are less likely to have a plan to get to vote than people who live in groups or families, where discussing the next days' events are a natural part of life. Therefore the intervention has much more impact on those who live alone. Worth noting.
  5. Finally, GOTV happens at the same point at which negativity can creep into campaigns. Those who engage in negative politics do so because they know it reduces turnout in their favour as it confirms the public’s idea that "politics is inherently corrupt". This far we have seen wholly inaccurate claims about Labour. More will undoubtedly follow and they will likely intensify. By polling day I expect we’ll find a leaflet claiming that Labour will hike council tax by 200% to fund a policy of emptying bins on their lawns on a daily basis while bellowing ‘The Red flag’ at them. We need to respond with unfettered positivity. First, because it gets people to vote, second because it engages people in politics and lastly because we have an awful lot to be positive about in what we can offer our communities. Keep smiling folks.

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Youth will not spare you canvassing duties

Admittedly I am one of life’s perennial optimists but nonetheless I really do believe that we are on for some special results across Adur and Worthing this May. Having seen most of our candidates close up and seen how hard they are working and how good they are, it’s clear that Adur and Worthing would be an immeasurably better place with this lot in council. However, it’s going to need us to Get Out The Vote.

Let’s get out and do it.

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Is it over yet?

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