I was re-elected on Tuesday.
I ran for re-election against not one, but TWO, opponents to represent a ward in my city that is home to about 8,000 people after the re-districting process following the 2010 census. I won without a runoff.
This stat is why I’m writing this: Only 276 people voted in my race.
How did I find 156 people to vote for me out of the 8,000 that potentially could have?
I targeted my message.
The first round of eliminations took place with a simple action. I requested the voter registration data for my ward from the county Board of Elections. That request cost my campaign $60, but it was well worth it.
Using that data, I reduced the 8,000 figure to 2,320 that are registered to vote in the ward. That eliminated 71% of the people I needed to reach out to in one motion. 2,320 is a much more manageable figure.
Included in the voter registration data are the 50 most recent elections. In my case, they gave me a voter history for all 2,320 going back to 2006 or so. I used that data to make my next round of eliminations.
Generously, I wanted to reach out to everyone who voted in the 2012 Presidential election at least twice. I found that around 1450 households had at least one voter who voted for President last November.
In July, I started knocking on doors. I knocked and knocked and knocked and knocked. For many, I simply left a business card when no one answered the door.
I wasn’t particular about what time or day I knocked on these doors, because this “touch” wasn’t so much about talking, rather it was about re-introducing them to my name, my branding, and to give them a point to recall later in the year. I probably wrote “Sorry I missed you! – Brett” on about 1500 business cards with my logo and contact information in 2013.
Then, it became time to funnel down to a even smaller figure. Knowing that the last municipal election yielded just over 100 voters, reaching out to 1450 with every outreach effort was not going to be as effective as an even tighter target. Even with the added voters from other wards as ours “grew” to accommodate the “One Person, One Vote” principle behind re-districting, I estimated the voter turnout to be around 300.
I came to this conclusion based on the fact that we had a competitive Mayoral race, City Council race, and a Yes/No referendum on a question about a bond, as well as the 3-way contest for School Board.
I went back to voter history to reduce the number of “likely voters” in this election to one that I thought to be closer to my estimate. I considered several factors and found the 450 or so households most likely to have a voter casting a ballot in my race for re-election (hey, I’m giving this to you for free, so you’ll have to figure out your own criteria to identify voters).
The 450 households identified with my specific criteria told me the addresses to which I need to return. I segregated the “Super Voter” data by street, assembled those streets into neighborhoods, and prepared walking lists for use by myself and my team.
While I was accompanied by volunteers on the weekends, I knocked on EVERY SINGLE DOOR MYSELF. Let me repeat that. I knocked on EVERY SINGLE DOOR MYSELF. We also looked for yards that had political signs that may not have been on the walking lists we prepared, and we knocked on their doors as well.
That is a summary of the “Ground Game” aspect of our strategy.
We also used the 1450 and 450 groupings for our direct mail efforts.
In addition to the 1450 who voted in November 2012, we added anyone who registered to vote after 8/1/2012 until the registration deadline for the election. These households received my first direct mail piece, which hit mailboxes during the first week of “Advanced Voting”:
This piece was used to remind these voters that I stopped by earlier in the year to talk with them, and it was an introduction to anyone who moved to those addresses or did not get the card I left. It also reminded many of them that there was an election upcoming.
During the third week of “Advanced Voting,” I sent the smaller collection that I deemed to most likely be part of the anticipated turnout this direct mail piece:
The positive message, accompanied by a photo showing my involvement in the schools, further reminded those that I was visiting in the days leading up to Election Day that a municipal election occurs soon. I also made sure to visit as many homes on my list as possible on the days I knew these would be delivered to ensure we had an icebreaker about which we could talk.
Additionally, I sent two automated calls to every phone number I had in the ward with a message to remind them to vote, providing basic voting information, as well as a pitch to vote FOR me. The first call was sent the final Monday of “Advanced Voting,” and I was the voice they heard. The second call went out the day before Election day with a female volunteer’s voice, reminding them where, when, and how they should vote.
While I am sure there were some voters that I did not reach with my message, and I know there to be many voters who did not make the choice to vote, I was specific and targeted in how I reached voters in the ward to make the best use of my time and resources.
Nobody ever said that winning was easy, and this is part of the process I used in my first competitive campaign.