Todd Taylor: Walking neighborhoods (canvassing or "tracting" for the LDS set) is the number one most important thing a candidate can do on weeknights between the hours of 5 PM and dusk (around 9:30 PM) and all day on Saturday.
When to start depends on how many doors, how many people join the candidate, and how many daylight hours during good weather there are until the election. If a candidate has a primary election, ballots will be hitting the mailboxes in three weeks. There are about 100 hours to canvass between now and then for about 800 actual conversations with a person who is home. If your vote goal is well within half of that margin (400 votes or less), the candidate still has time. If not, the candidate should have started already, needs help, will have to rely on less personal media, and/or need target their walking really well.
Targeted canvassing, as opposed to hitting every door, is the subject of much debate among candidates. But canvassing is not a "broadcast" activity, it is a "targeted" activity; there is virtually no debate among campaign consultants. Candidates should only canvass the doors they need to win - and do it multiple times. Which doors are selected depends on the message and campaign strategy. This activity is about building relationships -- not passing out literature. The mailman can distribute your literature faster, wider and cheaper.
Some think that anyone who can walk and chew gum is capable of canvassing. Not so. Canvassing well is difficult work. A campaign needs significant resources to do this well: a complete plan, walking lists, walking routes and maps, determination of the data it needs from voters to win, data collection methods, data input methods, scripts, rehearsal, healthy snacks, water, tote bags, clipboards, registration and absentee application forms, reliable transportation to and from the area to be canvassed, and a security plan to make sure everyone stays safe. It requires stamina, good presentation skills, a friendly demeanor, organization, attention to detail, faithfully recording responses, and the ability to adapt to new situations. Too much work? Not for the candidate who wants to win. Ask Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker.
(Todd Taylor is the 15-year veteran Executive Director of the Utah State Democratic Party. He is the longest serving Democratic State Party Executive Director in the nation. Todd is the immediate past president of the Association of State Democratic Executive Directors. He has served six State Party Chairs including Peter Billings, Dave Jones, Mike Zuhl, Meg Holbrook, Donald Dunn and Wayne Holland. Todd has served as chairman of his county party, political director for the State Party, and arrangements chair for the Utah delegation to four national party conventions. He was the campaign manager for J. Dell Holbrook, the first Democrat to win a seat on the Davis County Commission in 38 years. Todd is also a chiropractic physician who became involved in politics through his activities with the Utah Chiropractic Association. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jessica Fawson: With local, municipal races, walking is critical especially if the candidate is embattled or unknown to the public. Six weeks before an election (primary or general) is when candidates should begin walking in earnest, any walking before then is forgotten by voting day, but maybe necessary to secure sign placement or volunteers.
To walk effectively a candidate should only knock on doors of likely voters and travel with volunteers who knock on all the others. You can further target walking lists to those who are politically active using caucus attendee lists, and to people who would likely vote for you by micro targeting (ex. using precinct voting records for previous candidates most like you). If you have little data or need to win over a particular area, walk with a strong supporter who is well known and willing to introduce you to influence neighbors.
(Jessica Fawson started in politics volunteering with Salt Lake Councilman Eric Jergensens' Campaign as a class assignment. From that experience, she developed a penchant for uphill battles and has run a series of successful campaigns, including: Senator Neiderhauser (Draper, 2006), and Mayor Godfrey (Ogden, 2007). She is currently the campaign manager for A.G. Shurtleff's Senate Campaign and ran his successful re-election campaign in 2008. Jessica@markshurtleff.org)
Donald Dunn: It is very important for a local candidate to walk their neighborhoods. In an election this local, voters want and expect to meet their local representative. It is always good to start early -- I would say a good municipal walking plan starts in June.
In order to best maximize a candidates time walking, I would target the households you walk to. Certainly start by walking to households who have registered voters. If running in an area where the electorate votes with the candidates party (even though municipal elections are non-partisan) and resources are tight (volunteers and candidates time) I would only walk to households with who belong to the candidates registered party and unaffiliated voters first. If time allows, you can always expand your walking plan. If a candidate is truly non-partisan and does not have a party, I would stick to registered households first then expand.
(Donald Dunn has served as chairman of the Utah State Democratic Party. In 2000, he was the Democratic nominee for the US Congress in Utah's 3rd Congressional District and ran again for Congress in 2002. Donald has been involved in local, state and national politics for more than 20 years. Donald is a veteran of President Bill Clinton's White House and administration, serving in the White House Office of Political Affairs and at the US Trade and Development Agency. He served as Utah Chair for Hillary for President in 2008 and was a member of Hillary's national finance committee. Currently he serves as a member of the U.S. State Department's Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy, appointed by Secretary Hillary Clinton. Donald is the Director of Development and Patient Relations for the Internal Medicine Department at the University of Utah. He is married to Nichole Adams Dunn and they have two children. email@example.com)
Randy Minson: Walking is a must. Candidates should take every opportunity to get face-to-face with voters. Because the election season is short candidates should start immediately and take advantage of targeting those voters who have a high propensity to vote in municipal elections. Just as you would target voters on a mailing list, candidates would be wise to create walking lists targeting and visiting those who are likely to vote.
Candidates who are underfunded will not have the luxury of running a highly effective direct mail campaign. Walking your district or city will increase the quality of your voter contact, allow you to get a firm commitment and bank names for your GOTV efforts during early voting and on Election Day.
The contacts made and information collected will give you an understanding of the concerns of the residents in that neighborhood. This will help you formulate answers and show your understanding of the issues important to voters as you make subsequent visits in that neighborhood.
(Randy Minson has been consulting Republican political candidates for over 17 years. He has worked with many Utah political icons, including Sen. Bob Bennett, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, former Congressman Jim Hansen and multiple congressional, legislative and county officials. Randy specializes in political communications, direct mail, grassroots organization and Utah's competitive Republican convention process. Randy.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Matt Lyon: Walking is the most effective method local candidates can use to pick up votes. Yale Professors Donald Gerber and David Green have conducted extensive research on voter mobilizing techniques and found that, by far, canvassing door to door is drastically more effective than direct mail, mass media, phone calls, etc. In fact, some of their studies demonstrate that for every 12 doors knocked, candidates can pick up an additional vote. Although canvassing is very time intensive activity, the 1 to 12 ratio is vastly better than direct mail, phone banking, robo calls, or even media buys, especially from a cost perspective.
Candidates will want to canvass their targeted precincts and households at least twice during a campaign. If you are a City Council or Legislative Candidate, expect to walk your entire district twice during the campaign. Early August is generally when candidates need to start their field program to hit this goal, although this can vary greatly depending on volunteer support and how organized the campaign is. The best way to know when your campaign needs to start walking neighborhoods is to start at Election Day and build a calendar backwards.
In general, two volunteers can canvass 100-150 homes in a given evening. Additionally, it will take, on average, six people to canvass a precinct in a three-hour block. This is an average based on my past experience, and although every precinct is different, it is helpful because it allows campaigns to build a field calendar. For example, if you have 30 precincts to canvass, you know you will need 180 volunteers (volunteer days, not individuals). It will take you 30 days of canvassing, averaging six volunteers/night. If you are planning to walk five days a week, you will need six weeks to canvass your district. Thus, you should start 12 weeks before Election Day to canvass your district twice. If you think your campaign will only be able to average four volunteers per night, set aside eight weeks to complete your goal.
The amount of time it takes to walk your district can be decreased by targeting households and voters. Voter history, eliminating the households who have not voted recently, is the easiest and most effective way to slim down your list. It has been proven over and over again that the best predictor of future voting participation is past voting participation. Thus, you'll want to prioritize by looking at frequent voters.
There are other, more sophisticated means such as gender, issue based, consumer data, age, and likely party affiliation that can also be used depending on your resources and expertise of campaign staff and consultants.
(Matt Lyon has organized for the Democratic Party since 2005. Notably, he managed Phil Riesen's legislative campaign, the main Democratic pick up in 2006, and worked as the fundraising coordinator and field director for Ralph Becker for Mayor in 2007. He served as the President of the Young Democrats of Utah from 2006-2008. While President, Matt fundraised for and hired the organization's full-time Executive Director and directed YDU's first targeted young voter campaign in 2008. He currently works for Mayor Becker and serves on the Executive Board of the Salt Lake County Democratic Party. Mlyon1@gmail.com)
Deidre Henderson: Walking neighborhoods is an essential way to show voters that you are working hard and care about the community you wish to represent. However, if not done prudently, this can also be a huge waste of time. Use voter history to determine which households are likely to vote in a municipal election. For more notice per knock, prioritize households with multiple voters.
Once you have determined the number of households to visit, you can map out a reasonable strategy for door knocking beginning in the month leading up to the election. Always be thoughtful about the time of day. You don't want your visit to be looked at as inconsiderate or inconvenient. In Utah, it's best to avoid Sundays and Monday night visits. Have literature ready to hand out or leave on the doors of houses where nobody was home.
(Deidre Henderson, mother of five, is Campaign Manager for Congressman Jason Chaffetz. During the 2008 election she served as Chaffetz' Political Director, and was instrumental in organizing grass-roots strategies which helped him win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. As a champion of conservative principles and grass-roots campaigning, Deidre hopes to empower others with political action. email@example.com)
LaVarr Webb: For campaigns with a fair amount of sophistication and resources, an effective way to get even more bang from walking neighborhoods is to follow these steps:
1. Develop lists of your targeted households (frequent voters).
2. Send a postcard to them a few days before your canvass, telling them you're looking forward to meeting them and you'll be in their neighborhood between 5 and 9 p.m. on a specific day. Mention an issue or two about which you want to hear their concerns.
3. Walk the neighborhood zigzagging up the street to sidewalk to sidewalk, with volunteers going out ahead, knocking on doors, saying you're coming up the street, and want to meet the voter; take the voter to the sidewalk to meet you. You can move quickly up the street using this technique.
4. Follow-up a few days later with a second postcard to all the targeted households (whether you met them or not), telling them they have a great neighborhood and you enjoyed meeting folks there; mentioning issues (and your solutions) you learned about in their neighborhood, and providing contact information for your neighborhood precinct captains or other supporters, who will stay in touch with them.
The postcards leverage your time walking and reach even those you didn't meet, letting them know you were on their street and that you care about their neighborhood. firstname.lastname@example.org