I was a volunteer for the Democratic Committee in Arlington Mass. They have an impressive operation, just like what you've heard. For example, the systems they used to deploy us volunteers.
I walked in the campaign office, untrained and unschooled. Within minutes I was assigned my very own 'turf'. What is a turf? A turf is a neighborhood of about two to four streets assigned to me and only me.
I was handed a clipboard with a sheaf of sheets describing my turf. The clipboard included:
- A map of a nearby neighborhood, with a series of dots on certain, but not all houses
- A list of addresses in street order, first one side and then the other
- With each address a list of names of people, and an area for notes
- And a short script explaining what I was expected to do once I knocked on the door
Note that not all houses on the streets are marked. Only those that that their database said were kind of on the fence and with a little nudge might decide to go and vote for Obama and Warren. Supposedly, no definite Republicans nor committed Democrats were on the list. The list had about 50 houses, probably they had figured out that that was the approximate tolerance of a volunteer.
I could tell you similarly impressive stories about their dial-a-voter tool that would allow me to make one or 100 calls from my home computer, specifically targeted at undecided voters or those who might forget to vote, tell me who they were, what to tell them, remind them where to vote and so on. All from a web browser.
Now, in contrast. Here's an article about how Romney's system was developed (Microsoft,) deployed (centralized in Boston) and basically crashed on election day. Here's a nice quote:
"...The end result," Ekdahl wrote, "was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of [get out the vote] efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that…." (from Arstechnica)