The Impacts of Early Voting

As some of you may know from our blogs, I’m not only The Campaign Coach, but have tapped into my years on the campaign trail to become an author of political thrillers. Believe me, after more than two decades in the trenches of local elections, I have PLENTY to work with.

I made a joke the other day in a tweet about early voting, and while it makes a lot of sense in the real world, it’s a disaster for writing political fiction. It used to be, in a political thriller, you’d build up, build up, build up… And then have a tooth-and-nail election, culminating with a thrilling victory, with your hero riding off into the sunset.

Now, it’s a little bit different. You build up, build up, build up… And then voters trickle in a few dozen a day for a month, while your hero builds up to election night in hopes that enough votes will be counted by then to declare a victory. Riveting!

So, I’ve worked around that, of course, in my newest manuscript to make the lead-up to Election Day more compelling. But, the interesting thing is that for candidates in real life, that challenge is even greater. Now, instead of positioning your resources for a full-scale GOTV (get-out-the-vote) assault at the last minute before Election Day, a very different approach is needed.

We’re a long way right now from Election Day in November, but when you’re running for office, it’ll be here before you know it. Never too early to start planning, so here are some tips on how to manage early voting in your race:

  • Know Your State/Community’s Early Voting Rules – Especially coming out of the pandemic, states have been implementing and/or adjusting new early voting rules and schedules. As November approaches, it’s important for you to understand the timelines, and when you need to be ready to reconnect with voters you’ve talked to throughout the campaign, as they might be voting weeks before Election Day.
  • Know Your Community’s Early Voting Preferences – There are many reasons why voters choose to vote early, and they will vary from year-to-year. Demographics are different, as well. Which means that short of asking people directly, your best bet is to bank on stats from previous years. If your community has avidly voted early in the past, then you know that you have to ramp up your outreach early. If they vote more traditionally, heading to the polls on Election Day, then you need to create your strategy accordingly.
  • Plan Out Your Resources – We use “resources” here instead of “spending,” because there are many more tools in your toolbox for getting out your vote than just cash, and they all need to be managed. That includes your time, your volunteers’ time, your momentum and, yes, your bank account. Early voting changes your campaign’s asset management in a big way, and you need to make sure you don’t burn out any of your resource pool before Election Day rolls around, while at the same time not sitting on your resources while people are already out voting.

This year’s elections are very different than in the past, for many reasons. Winning is going to require some knack for rolling with the punches. The best way to eliminate surprises late in the game is to do your homework, know your community and plan out how to get to your voters at the optimal time.

Leave the last-minute campaign drama to us thriller writers!

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