A system I have worked with on local elections (not the same one as Obama, probably – this one was locally written) works as follows:
I request, am checked out, and am given a logon id & password to a web site.
I logon to that website. It displays 10 names & phone numbers. (When I used it, there was no specialization – any volunteer just got the next 10 names. But it was possible to do specialization. A teacher volunteer would get 10 names of voters who had previously identified education as a major issue. An ex-military volunteer would get 10 voters concerned about national security. A gay volunteer could get 10 GLBT voters to call. A retired volunteer could get 10 voters over age 65 to call. Etc.)
I pickup the phone and call the first of those 10 numbers. When they answer, I talk to them. The web screen displays the info on that person, the basic script, and the questions I am supposed to ask. As they answer, I enter their responses into the screen, and they are uploaded into the campaign database.
If the phone is busy, I enter that online. That number is marked as ‘probably somebody at home’, and so gets high priority to be given out again to the next volunteer, or even to me again in my next group of 10 numbers.
If I leave a message, I enter that, and the number is marked to not be called again until the next day at least.
If it’s disconnected or a wrong number, I enter that, and the number is removed from the database, and the name is printed out on a report for another volunteer to look up and try to find the correct phone number for that voter.
If the person supports my candidate, I enter that, and they will get a reminder call on election day. If they’re opposed, they won’t. If they want a lawn sign for the candidate, I enter that, and the name & address are printed out on a list for the lawn sign delivery volunteers. If they have a specific question for the candidate, I enter that, and it’s printed on a list, and the candidate will personally respond via email or a phone call.
If the person indicates they need an absentee ballot or a ride to the polling place, I enter that, and the info is passed on to other volunteers who arrange for the city clerk to send the absentee ballot, or who manage the volunteers who give rides on election day.
- When I’m done with those 10 voters, the system asks me if I want to do 10 more, or want to quit for now.
Note that all this is done by me from my home. In my case, the candidate was a friend whose district was about a 45 minute drive each way – it took a lot of commuting time for me to go out there to help him. But this phone work I could do from home in my pajamas, and it really helped his campaign. (He won!)
A future refinement of this system is being developed for use with incoming calls. \
Volunteers would be classified as to various special areas or issues that they were qualified to talk about, and what times they would be available at a specified phone number.
Then when a voter called in to an toll-free 800-number with a question about a specific issue like “what is the candidate’s position on more money for education?”, the system would make an outgoing call to an ‘education’ volunteer who is available at that time, and connect the caller to that volunteer, who could then talk to them about the candidates position, and do other persuasion.
If no volunteer was available at that time, the system would record the question from the voter, and a callback phone number. Then when a volunteer becomes available, they would get the recorded message, and then the system would call that callback number and connect the volunteer to it.
This version would allow voters to call toll-free to ask a question or get more details on the candidate, at any time of the day. They would get a personal response from someone on the campaign who is knowledgeable on that issue. And the volunteer can do this from home (or anywhere, if they use a cell phone), and without any phone costs to the volunteer.
I am guessing that the Obama campaign works something like this:
- the volunteer calls an 800-number, and logs in somehow.
- the system picks a voter to call, reads the name, etc. to the volunteer, and then dials the number and connects the volunteer to that voter.
- after the call, the voter hangs up, but the volunteer stays on the line. The system may have them press buttons to record the results of the phone call. Then it asks if they are ready to do another phone call. If so, the process repeats.