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Know the Voter

To Win: Know Who the Voters and Important People Are

By Joseph Mercurio

Whether you are running for Assembly or Governor, you have to make lists of people who are important to winning. At first, the lists are the people that are the easiest to call to raise the contributions. Next, you have to make a list of all the important people in the area who can have an affect on winning.

You want them to get the message that you are running, that you have a solid rationale, that you will have the money and that you know how to win. This VIP list includes elected public and party officials, prominent religious leaders, important civic and business leaders and the political reporters and editorial staffs of the local papers. Everyone needs to be called and, depending on the response, their people should be kept abreast of major events in the campaign.

To manage this, you need a computer and a database. There are software packages that are designed for candidates; or just get used to working with Access, Act or another major program. Now you have a database for fundraising and a second one for important political contacts. Often, late in the campaign, the direct mail consultant will get a copy of at least part of the voter file with mail information like carrier routes, your phone people will get a different copy of the voter file setup for phone calling and your pollster will get samples drawn from the same file. Since your field operation should be sophisticated enough to use the voter file, the solution is to get as much of the voter file as you will need for the primary or the general election.

Getting the voter file early lets you set up all your data in one place with much of the typing eliminated, because basic information comes with the file. And from the beginning, the campaign can rank voters on their likelihood of voting and keep track of favorable voters, donors and VIPs through the year. Starting with “Prime voters” is not enough; tweaking turnout in certain groups can be as important as persuasion. You can get the voter file from local county (in New York City, the City Board of Elections) and in some states, the Secretary of State.

Unless you are an IT expert, you would then have to send the voter file out to a service bureau to add phone numbers, get ethnic information, and post office mail information beyond zip code, including National Change of Address (NCOA) data, and any consumer or census data that you want for targeting. Usually, it is better to go to a vendor, like Prime NY, and get the voter file with basic additional information like phone numbers, mail information and ethnic data. In most localities, the board file comes with at least name and address, age, registration date, party, sex, and in many instances, what election the person voted in. What you need and how to start is something you need to work out with your general consultant or in a small campaign the campaign manager or senior consultant.

Once you have the voter file in hand, you can add things like unlisted phone numbers, work numbers, fax and e-mail. And you can code if the voter is a donor, to who and how much, have they given to you, what issues are important to them, are they favorable, did they sign up to leaflet, put out a yard sign—the full gamut. In a large campaign, to facilitate the various people who need to get access to the file for updating and use, the file can be housed on the server where the campaign website is located, in a password protected non-public section.

Now the campaign can, in an efficient way, track prospect donors, send thank you letters, track favorables, send issue mail, set up ID (identification) campaign of favorables, hostiles and undecided voters, send out canvassers with walk lists, organize the GOTV (get out the vote) operation, get out targeted mail, help people with absentee ballots, and the logistics of election day, including assisting with getting voters to the polls. Not to leave out volunteers, invitations, meet ups, telephone trees, supporters sending personal letter campaigns, building lists, rally and street organizing, the ballot access (petitioning) campaign and challenges, and finally a recount if the race is close.

Now that you’re raising money and the important people know you’re running, you need professional help (yes possible that kind as well)—political consultants.

Want next steps? More later.

Joseph Mercurio National Political Services, Inc. 2 South End Avenue 9J New York NY 10280-1089 212 945-4330 www.nationalpolitical.com 

Also this note which you should pass along.

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To learn more about the program, its requirements, and the application process please visit our website at http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/politics/pcm/home.shtml  or contact Executive Director, Joseph Mercurio, at joseph.mercurio@nyu.edu 

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