Voter Turn-Out

In addition, your campaign committee should organize presentations to service clubs, aligned groups, neighborhood associations, schools and the media. South Windsor’s committee, for example, focused on targeted voter districts in residential areas with the greatest number of current pool patrons.

WHEN — Beginning the Campaign

Your campaign will actually begin the day your group recognizes a need in the community. In that regard, you may have already started.

As you further define the project and tailor it to meet the needs of as many people as possible, while being fiscally responsible, you are laying the foundation for your campaign message.

And make no mistake, your group will be judged on its actions at this initial stage. Issues such as community involvement and expertise in your planning group will be examined by the voting public.

So, it is important to engage the community, either through inviting individuals to join the committee or through organizing open houses and public meetings.

Although the scale of the project can change the time necessary to cultivate public awareness, many campaigns begin to deploy their message 90 to 120 days before the vote.

However, some states have specific election laws governing campaign timing. Be sure to research state statutes concerning these time-sensitive issues.

HOW — Campaign Promotion

Time and budget will likely be the most significant factors in promoting your campaign, and although this article does not delve into capitalizing a campaign, we explore several ways that community organizers can execute the delivery of their message once this capital is secured. Successful campaigns typically include:

• Guest editorial columns to local print media. South Windsor organized a very inexpensive letters-to-the-editor campaign. Organizers lined up credible writers and ghostwriters for the letters and planned a schedule of submissions to the local media. The group was able to secure several letters in the newspaper prior to the election.

• Yard signs. In addition to the expense of designing and printing the signs, your group must plan for the time it will take to contact residents and businesses for their permission to place your signs in their yards. You must also be on the lookout for thieves and vandals who can easily bring your yard-sign campaign to a screeching halt. When managed properly, yard signs can be highly effective.

• Direct mail. Mailing lists can be purchased to send letters throughout the community. With enough financial support, direct mail campaigns can be very successful.

• Billboards. Though expensive and effective for a limited period of time, a well-positioned billboard can deliver your message to a large number of people.

• Advertising. In addition to purchasing radio and television ad space, you will need to budget for production of the advertisements. However, fees are frequently reduced for not-for-profit initiatives.

• Door-to-door. Successful campaign staffs target residential areas and set out to talk with prospective voters and drop off promotional materials that deliver the campaign message right to the voters’ doors.

• Presentations. Getting out into the community and talking with neighborhood groups, service clubs and related organizations is a common tactic for referenda committees. By delivering a core presentation designed to inform the public about the project and cultivate support, your campaign has a great shot at securing the endorsement of these groups. Beyond endorsing the project, they may contribute resources or assist in other ways to help get the measure passed. Neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed project are an invaluable resource, and you should spend the majority of your time in these areas.

• Web site. In recent years, Web sites have become an essential mode of communication. The Internet is often the first place people go for their information today. A Web site’s ability to provide real-time information on the project, combined with the potential to draw volunteers, financial contributors and supporters, makes the Internet an extremely valuable resource for delivery of your message.

This list is just a sample of the tactics that community organizers can use to get the word out and cultivate voter support.

It is common to use several of these tactics to reach the most potential voters. When promotional activities are in the planning stage, consider your audience and how you can deliver your message effectively and to create the response you desire.

Many campaign groups seek professional assistance as they begin to plan for a referendum campaign. Securing these resources can go a long way toward helping ensure that your supporters show up and cast their vote on Election Day.

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