What’s your top tip for surviving Polling Day?

Polling Day is one of the most gruelling days in a political activist’s life. By its nature it comes at a time when you are already completely knackered. Liberal Democrats always work all year round, but there’s nothing to rival the intensity of an election campaign. By polling day, everything hurts.

A typical polling day starts before dawn as the early morning leaflets start to go out. Stealth is the key as you try not to wake up dogs or disturb people as you post that leaflet. I know a lot of people who got involved in the party or switched their support to us because of a good Good Morning leaflet, so it’s well worth doing.

For new members who have never done this before, it’s probably worth explaining a few things. Knocking people up isn’t as rude as it sounds. It’s about visiting people who have said they will vote for you and reminding them that the election is happening and how important it is that they vote.

You might also hear the word “shuttleworths” being bandied about. These are the lists of our supporters that we knock up. This is how they got their name, back in the day before computers when they were all hand-written.

Any activist will tell you that you need to keep going till 10 pm. One candidate in a council election lost by 3 votes last year after knocking off at 8 pm. Your polling day operation is really important and could make the difference between winning and losing.

And once the polls have closed, a particularly hardy few have to get themselves to the count and prepare themselves to concentrate as the votes are verified and counted. In a big national election, you may well be up for 24 hours or more.

So, how do you survive it?  You aren’t going to get much opportunity to rest, but you should take a short break after every stint to have some food (preferably involving carbs) and a nice cup of tea. There is not a challenge in life that can’t be helped by drinking tea. That’s a lesson taught to be by my beloved Granny and I swear by it. She would kill me if she knew I was making it with a teabag in a cup, mind you.

Fresh socks are a total godsend if you have been on your feet for hours.

Also, if you can, vary your work a bit. Don’t be out all day from end to end. Sit down and do some phoning for a while just to give yourself a rest.

So what is your top tip for getting through polling day in one piece?

Although we might be exhausted and ready to hide under the duvet for a year, there’s something a little bit sad about polling day. Campaigns run at full pelt are bonding experiences. We’ve spent more time with our political colleagues than we have with our loved ones over the past few weeks. While we’ll be glad to get back to what passes for normal life, we’ll miss the adrenaline, the banter, the joy of working together for a common goal.

This campaign has been going on for what seems like ever. Six weeks is a very long time to keep up this kind of pace. We will kind of miss it when it’s gone, though.

One of the special things for me is meeting people who have been involved in the party for a very long time. One in particular, Aileen Williams, is 87. Every day, she’s come in to the Edinburgh Western office to help out. Her first involvement with the party was 59 years ago. She’s been a member since 1957 and was a long-standing agent for council elections. She got involved because she wanted to vote Liberal and there was no candidate. A small group of four people decided they didn’t want to see that happen again and so the ward association in Corstorphine was born. Today we have a campaign office on one of the main roads in that ward. We’ve won the seat at Scottish and UK levels. If Alex Cole-Hamilton wins tomorrow, it’ll be because of the foundations Aileen and many  others laid. There are liberal heroes like Aileen all over the country.

Good luck to all our 2000 candidates, their teams and many, many thanks to those who put the work in to build this party years ago. As we seek to rebuild, we should be listening to them and learning from their experiences.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • My top 2 tips:
    1) Wear a headtorch for the dawn leaflets so you don’t muck around straining to see the addresses to deliver to.
    2) A thermos flask of tea is a great pick-me-up on a cold and wet morning.

    Good luck tomorrow everyone.

  • Paul Murray 4th May '16 - 2:23pm

    A”full English” between the Good Morning and first knock up works a treat for keeping the energy levels up.

  • Rob Gilliam 4th May '16 - 3:04pm

    A couple of hours’ power nap, sometime between lunch and the after-school knock-up/phonebank.

    Essential if you’re starting the day with Good Mornings and ending it at a count.

    @tpfkar thanks for tip on head torch. Will dig mine out tonight!

  • Take time off between Good Morning and first knock-up. No-one thanks you for knocking before lunch. Or, in London, much before 6pm.

  • Paul Holmes 4th May '16 - 4:38pm

    Start knocking up no later than 10am -and start with OAP areas as they are highly unlikely to go to vote however much they are knocked up in the evening.

  • I was a 10 O’clock person but:
    “Remember that every person you find at home in the morning is one less person to remind later on when it gets busy – and when you leave a knock-up leaflet for people” is a flawed statement as you don’t usually not knock people up a second time based on whether you spoke to them first time.

    I hope ALDC’s advice has improved from last year – it – and the party’s – approach to polling day last year was horribly dated. What ever Tim Gordon says about data driven campaigning there was precious little evidence of that in advice and training about polling day. It should in any case start some time before polling day with turnout motivation messages at groups with the most easily improved turnout rates (there is after all accurate and easily available data on turnouts).

    For everything written about finding the mythical extra voter who had forgotten to vote in the final 15 minutes that is not a particularly good way of using resources – the times I’ve found a voter in the last half hour and persuaded them to get to vote is a vanishingly small and the one time I can recall it happening it increased our majority from 1945 to 1946. It’s a classic bit of worker harder not smarter LibDem cult of electionology :-).

  • Paul Holmes 4th May '16 - 10:05pm

    Victoria must have been taking a break between delivery Rounds then!

    Hywel makes good points but it is still true in a close election contest that a good polling day operation can make the difference between winning and losing.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th May '16 - 10:18pm

    Paul, Victoria has done wonders organising polling day and she was about to start re-arranging the office to make it work for tomorrow.

    She has also delivered an awful lot of leaflets and she’s not been on the internet very much:-).

  • “Hywel makes good points but it is still true in a close election contest that a good polling day operation can make the difference between winning and losing”

    I don’t think anything I said suggested otherwise. But using the phrase “polling day operation” does make me think you didn’t quite get what I was saying. This ISN’T just a polling day operation, you don’t just “switch on” GOTV

  • Simon Banks 5th May '16 - 5:09pm

    Surviving the day after is often more of a problem, even if you win. The competition that’s directed your activities for weeks is suddenly no longer there. Going round to thank people who put posters up or starting to work through your predecessor’s casework file haven’t got the same fizz. If like me in 1982 you first get elected to a council and find yourself immediately leader of a group holding balance of power, you’ll have something challenging to occupy you. Otherwise, it may be wise to plan something – clearing out the spare room, writing that essay on Wittgenstein, climbing a mountain…

  • Paul Holmes 5th May '16 - 6:36pm

    Agree Hywel – if nothing else anyone who really wants to win ran their first GOTV operation a couple of weeks ago with targeted contact before and after Postal Votes were issued.

    But you did seem to be questioning the value anymore of knocking up from fairly early in the morning -as in ‘I was a ten o clock person but…..’

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