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Aaron Burr’s GOTV Effort

I’m currently reading a very good book: Adams vs. Jefferson, The Tumultuous Election of 1800.

According to the book, in 1778, Aaron Burr executed what I believe to be the first American Get-Out-The-Vote effort. Following is the passage:

"Finally, on Election Day Burr sent party workers into the wards to rally the voters and assist them, if need be, in getting to the polls. Each had a list containing the names of residents in the block to whom he was assigned, and each literally campaigned door-to-door. Burr even arranged for German-speaking party operatives to get out the vote in neighborhoods inhabited by recent German immigrants. What is more, Burr personally spent ten hours on Election Day at a polling place where Federalist chicanery was thought likely.”

As you’ll note, this plan included “ID’ing” and turning out voters, "minority outreach," and "ballot integrity."

Of course, Burr’s GOTV effort worked: "We have beat you by superior Management,’ Burr crowed. The First Lady reached the same conclusion. New York’s Republicans ‘laid their plans with more skill than their opponents,’ Abigail Adams noted."

During this time, candidates did not even "campaign" for public office (it was considered untoward). This makes Burr’s GOTV efforts that much more impressive.

Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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