Increasing Voter Turnout

by Jean M. Brown, Past President of ECDC

Voter turnout increases dramatically when voters receive ballot recommendations from a respected Democratic club in their community. We have found that registered Democrats often decide not to vote when faced with too many candidates whom they do not know, especially those that are at the end of the ballot. These include city candidates, such as the auditor, and county officials like the superintendent of schools. The California ballot measures also require more information than is available to most voters.

In the 1990s, the El Cerrito Democratic Club distributed ballot recommendations that included every item on the ballot to every Democratic residence before every election in the city. Not only did voter turnout increase, but the county supervisor moved his office to El Cerrito, and the city council changed from its previous teeter-totter, GOP/Democratic majority to a Democratic majority.

Printing was inexpensive because our ballot recommendations were photocopied on a single sheet of paper, folded and printed on both sides. This distinguished it from costly, glossy, campaign flyers. Club members were willing to distribute the flyer because they were asked to distribute only around their own residence. Our volunteer list grew with neighbors before each election.

The club needs to devote the time necessary to study the candidates and issues in order to make informed recommendations. This information has to be passed on to members before the endorsement meeting. Voters begin to count on them as they are distributed regularly before each election. There is no greater service a club can provide the community.


  1. Enlist a motivated organizer to get things started, along with a member willing to organize the distribution of the precinct lists to the walkers.
  2. From the Registrar of Voters, or Democratic Party get: (a) the applicable precinct lists; (b) the District Multi-Voter Manual which lists the precinct and district of each street address; and (c) the map that outlines the precincts and districts.

Phone Members and Volunteers

  1. Line up your walkers. Phone all members, including former members. Homebound members will help with the phoning.
  2. Assure walkers that they only need to distribute the ballot recommendations around their own home. They do not have to ring the doorbell—they can leave the flyer near the entrance. Flyers can be left in a secure spot at the bottom of steps, but not under, or in, the mailbox.
  3. The precinct lists can be sent via email, picked up at a given location, or delivered.

Write the Flyer

  1. Simply telling voters to vote yes or no is not enough to increase turnout. In a short phrase or sentence, give the reason for the endorsement. It can be the candidate’s main achievement, or significant endorsers, such as the state Democratic Party, the League of Women Voters, labor organizations, etc. If there is no endorsement for an office, tell voters why.
  2. The club’s contact information disseminated with this useful material strengthens the club’s reputation and increases membership.

Distribute the Flyer

  1. To develop trust in the recommendations, they must be distributed before every election. Walkers are rewarded by meeting voters who say, “I was waiting for that.”
  2. To be noticed and valued, the ballot recommendations must be distributed without other campaign literature—even if a particular candidate or issue is endorsed by the club.