Opinion Column

How parties win ridings with GOTV

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand speaks during a news conference in Ottawa. 

Canada's Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand speaks during a news conference in Ottawa. REUTERS

“GOTV is a crucial part of winning close campaigns, and some campaigns do it better than others.” - Aaron Strauss, U.S. political analyst


Forget the polls. And ignore the noise on “strategic voting” – which rarely has any impact on election results.

How do New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals actually win ridings when they usually take under 50% of the votes?

With a little-understood electoral weapon called GOTV – Get Out The Vote.

First, we don’t have one election – we have 338 separate elections to select the Member of Parliament in each riding.

The party that wins the most seats forms government – so it’s MPs elected that actually count, not national polls that don’t reflect local reality.

That’s why throughout this infinity pool 11-week election, parties have canvassed at the door, by telephone, online and direct mail to persuade voters and track results.

On election day that data goes to work. Each party has supporters and paid staff struggling to GOTV.

And that’s why even a significant 5% lead can mean nothing on E-Day.

Here’s an example of how in a close race, any party with serious support can win the seat with a “GOTV surprise.”

Let’s say the Conservatives are polling 40%, the NDP 35% and Liberals 25%, with 100,000 riding voters, for simplicity.

With 40%, the Conservatives should win – but wait.

If the NDP gets 50% of its voters to the polls and the Conservatives and Liberals only 33%, the NDP will have 17,500 votes versus the Conservatives’ 13,200 and the Liberals’ 8,250 – and easily win.

In B.C., the Conservatives won 21 seats in 2011 and the NDP 12 of the province's then-36 seats, while the Liberals won only two and the Greens one. That’s partly because the Conservatives and NDP have the best “on-the-ground” GOTV campaigns.

Why is GOTV important in this election? Because to defeat the Conservatives and form a minority government with the most seats in Parliament, the NDP needs to win 35 more seats than they hold now nationally, while the Liberals need to win 100.

That means the Liberals' task is almost three times harder – not impossible, but much more challenging.

So as Strauss observed: “Some campaigns do it better than others” – and those campaigns will win seats on Oct. 19.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  


Who do you think will have the most seats in the Oct. 19 election?