Election Day Needs a Marketing Plan or How To Get Voters to the Polls

Empty voter boothsIt’s Election Day in Alexandria, VA. Today, we voted for Mayor, City Council and School Board. These are pretty important positions in our City government. Here’s the problem: voter turnout was ridiculously low. When I went to vote at lunchtime, I was the only person in the entire polling station. The volunteer told me that about 5% of registered voters in my precinct had voted.

Low voter turnout, especially for a non-​​Presidential race, is nothing new. Mid-​​term elections are notorious for having low voter turnout. Evidently, the millions who turned out for the 2008 Presidential race that elected President Obama have tuned out again and  are skipping local elections.

Know what I think?  Election Day needs a marketing plan. We market our meetings, conventions, products, and tradeshows.  I say that we need to deploy some of the tactics we use to get people to attend a tradeshow, register on a Web site or buy a product and get people to the polling stations!  Here are some of my ideas:

  • Create a sweepstakes. Every person who votes is entered into a contest to win $10, $100, $10,000 or whatever amount is available.  The dollar value doesn’t matter; the excitement of a sweepstakes is what counts.
  • Give out points for voting. We all love gold stars.  My polling station should have my voter record and give me a gold star for consistent voting.  A bell should ring when a longtime voter checks in.  I should get a $25 Starbucks card for a perfect voting record in the last 24 years.
  • Voting should be fun. Let’s face it.  We all want to be entertained.  Why not have the local school bands perform at the polling stations?  We should have stand-​​up comics making fun of the candidates. Let’s have  magicians entertain the folks waiting in line.

  • There should be food. I bring chocolate to every meeting.  Why?  Because food (especially chocolate) seems to make my meetings go more smoothly.  If I want staff to attend a seminar, I have lunch brought in.  Food works!  Even if you make me pay for it, let me buy hot dogs, coffee, hot chocolate, candy, donuts, whatever at the polling station.
  • Make voting part of a quest. Can we make learning about the candidates and issues and voting be part of a large, game-​​like quest?  Let’s create candidate Web sites that have clues, hand out more clues at the voting booth, and give out rewards for completing the quest.

Ridiculous, you say?  Perhaps, but we deploy these types of tactics every day and they help companies and organizations market their products and services successfully.

Can we at least have food during the June primary?