If your phone has been ringing more lately, there’s a good reason why. Election Day is a less than a week away and Ventura County political volunteers are in full gear with one mission: to encourage residents to get out and vote on Nov. 6.
“We call everyone and talk issues, not politics,” said Lauraine Effress, chairperson of the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Committee, part of the Greater Oxnard Organization for Democrats (GOOD) Club that serves Oxnard and Port Hueneme.
In years past, GOTV was held on the last Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day. Effress said that with more than 60 percent of Ventura County voters voting by mail, the GOTV campaign began after Labor Day.
The campaign also started earlier because midterm elections tend to have a lower turnout rate than presidential elections. Effress also used the example of the recent Oxnard recall election, which had a voter turnout of 17 percent.
“A lot of people vote as soon as they get their ballot and mail it in,” Effress said. “There’s also a large contingent that holds onto the ballot and drops it in a box that says ‘Vote by Mail’ all around the county or walks it into the polls.”
According to the Ventura County Clerk-Recorder, Registrar of Voters Office website, further numbers show that during the 2016 Presidential General Election, out of the 442,951 registered voters in the county, 363,285 ballots were cast, making it a voter turnout of 82 percent. During this year’s Statewide Direct Primary in June, out of the 433,496 registered voters in the county, 169,281 ballots were cast, making it a voter turnout of 40 percent.
“I want people to realize their one vote is essential to the democracy,” Effress said.
Effress said calls are done with the volunteer’s personal cell phone Monday through Friday between 4 and 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the GOOD office or residence. The number of calls depends on the candidate list, which could be dozens.
“All of the money that we raised [to keep the office open] is through dues and the fundraiser,” Effress said. She said about $6,000 was raised and local candidates also contributed money to keep the office running.
When calling voters in Ventura County, Effress said that responses vary depending on the age and personality. She said it takes a certain kind of volunteer, one that enjoys talking to other people, to make the calls. There are also provided scripts where seasoned volunteers engage more personally with voters.
Phone calls are also aimed at lower-propensity voters, defined as people who have only voted twice in the last five elections. With high propensity voters, Effress knows that the person will vote, whether or not they get a call from a GOTV volunteer. There are also algorithms to ensure call backs if there’s no answer.
“Some people say, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you called, I have a lot of questions,’ and then I engage in a nice conversation,” Effress said. “Some say, ‘I haven’t done my research and I don’t want to commit.’ Some say, ‘I am voting for this person, I’ve made up my mind.’ Some say, ‘I will make a commitment closer to the election.’ Some people slam the phone down or people don’t answer their phone because they have caller ID.”
The volunteers also began utilizing a personalized texting service called Hustle. According to Steven Auclair, who is involved in volunteer and club communications with GOOD, the service has a significantly higher response rate, especially among voters ages 18 to middle age. The message can include information on polling locations and a link to the GOOD voter guide.
“This is one of the first elections [where] we will be rolling it out and it’s a powerful tool for us,” Auclair said. “These [are] not automated text messages and the caller will be able to respond to the message.”
Effress feels that with all the efforts through the GOTV campaign, it will help Ventura County residents get to the polls.
“I want to feel like I am contributing to our democratic process,” Effress said. “We do have something and that is the ballot.”
VCReporter reached out to various members of the Ventura County Republican Party organization for this story. None of the members responded to our request for an interview.