Counting Your Votes

Perhaps you’ ve volunteered for or been around a major political campaign and noticed that they categorize voters as “ Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours,” etc.  You may have also heard the term “ persuadable voters.”

What does all this mean?

It means you have different objectives with different groups of voters, and that certain people are more likely to respond positively to your request for a vote or additional help on your political campaign.

Typically in these numbering strategies, a campaign identifies its strongest supporters as “ Ones.”   When you go door to door or talk to a voter on the phone, and the person indicates she intends to vote for you, you should make a notation on your list of supporters.  Be careful not to confuse a smile or simple courtesy with support, because your later strategy depends on making an honest decision to add someone to your list of committed supporters.

The second category of voters are those who are friendly, open to your message and indicate they might be willing to vote for you.  You’ ll need to make a stronger pitch through your voter contact program (direct mail or phone calls) to bring this voter into that top tier of sure supporters.  Certainly, if they see your campaign signs appearing they are more likely to join what they perceive as a winning campaign effort.

The third category of voters is the goldmine of a political campaign.  They are the true undecided voters.  They honestly do not have an opinion or preference between candidates in your race.  Be careful here to eliminate people who never vote, because there is a difference between undecided and uninterested.  But voters who generally vote in most elections, but remain undecided in your campaign, should be the focus of your most intensive efforts to win votes.  These are the people whom political consultants call “ persuadable voters.”   They may also provide the “ swing votes” in your race.  Often, these are independent-minded voters who pay less attention to party affiliation if a particular candidate connects with them personally.

The fourth group of voters are those you want to ignore after they are identified.  These are people who are strong supporters of your opponent.  Or, more bluntly, people who might not like you.  Sorry, but no political candidate is loved by everybody.  A sure ticket to defeat is any campaign that tries to please every voter.  Don’ t waste your precious campaign dollars trying to persuade these unreachable voters.  You’ d rather lull them to sleep than antagonize them into action.

Now go back to the first two categories of voters.  Consider asking them if they’ d allow you to place a campaign sign in their yard.  If they are enthusiastic, send them a letter welcoming them on your team and asking for a donation, followed up with a phone call.  If you get people to invest in your effort, they become extensions of your campaign.  Now, they’ ll want you to win because they feel a personal stake in your candidacy. 

You’ ll want to contact all these top tier voters once again just before Election Day, to make sure they remember to vote.    This is your base vote.  You don’ t need to persuade this audience any longer, but you don’ t want to take these voters for granted.  Try to get them to cast their ballots early or by mail if your jurisdiction allows early voting.  Then, bad weather or busy personal schedules won’ t get in the way and cost you vital votes when the numbers come in Election Night.