"Cutting turf" refers to the process of breaking up a precinct map into separate, smaller "turfs" that each contain a certain number of houses or voters. The goal is to create a turf that is easily walkable for volunteers out knocking doors.* This guide will show you how to cut turf in VAN as well as give some tips and best practices, and then how to share turfs with individual canvassers.
Build Your List and Send to Turf Cutter
The first step to cutting turf is to build a list of voters whom you wish to canvass. To do this, go to "Create a List" and select the criteria you want to use. The first step in your list should always be to select the precinct you want to walk. From there you can use party, scores, or survey questions to refine your list.
Click "Run Search," then "Cut Turf"
In this example, we will be cutting St. Cloud Ward 4 Precinct 3, narrowed to those with a DNC Support Score of 50-80.
Cutting and Saving Turf
In the turf cutting tool, you will find a street map of the precinct. Each dot represents a house. Note that, while VAN tries it's best to place each dot where the house is located, it is not always completely accurate.
Clicking on an individual dot will give you the address of that house. This is useful when it is unclear which street the house is on when two streets intersect or are close together.
To generate an individual turf, click anywhere on the map. A square pin will be dropped where you click. Your next click will draw a line between the two points (see picture below).
Continue to drop points around the boundary you want to create for the turf. VAN will highlight houses captured in the turf as you go in yellow (See below)
As you go, a few things to note:
- If you drop a pin in the wrong place, you can undo your last step clicking the green back arrow near the top of the screen, or you can simply click any point and drag it to another place.
- Under "legend" on the right-hand side, you can see how many people and doors you've selected so far. In the parentheses, there are two numbers: the left is the number of people you've selected in your turf; the right number is the number of doors you've selected. Generally, we cut turf by the number of doors.
- If you need to adjust at a finer level, you can zoom into the map using the +/- bar in the top left.
- VAN automatically creates a point halfway between each click. You can adjust those as needed. Also, clicking on a midpoint generates new points between the midpoint and both ends.
Continue to adjust your turf until you are satisfied by the size and walkability of your turf. To close and create a new turf, click again on the first pin you dropped. This will close the boundary and turn the turf a new color. (See below)
If you find you need to adjust the turf further after closing it, you can still move the pins you dropped. Any changes will be reflected in the Legend, and any new houses will be highlighted in the color of that turf.
Once you've close your turf, clicking again will generate a new pin, which you can use to create a new turf. Continue cutting until you've selected all the houses in the precinct.
Once you've drawn all the boundaries you'd like, make sure to check the "Unassigned" label in the Legend. Sometimes you may think you've captured all the houses, but one may be left out. In this case, find the missing house by zooming in and looking carefully at the edges of each turf. Once you have no houses left, click "Save and Finish"
Save your turf in the appropriate folder. For region name, we recommend using the precinct name to add clarity when you want to find this turf again in your folders.
Important Tips and Tricks
- In general, aim for 40-50 doors for a reasonable turf. It is important that your turfs are roughly the same size, both in the number of doors and in the physical size of the area. This is not always possible, but try to be as even as possible.
- Try to cut turfs next to each other so that they connect. This way, if an ambitious canvasser wants two turfs, 1 and 2 are right next to each other.
- Try not to cross the lines that outline each turf. This will make things easier to see for you, but it will also keep VAN from being confused if you accidentally have one house in two turfs.
- Do not make your turf cross busy streets, highways, or other barriers (lakes, rivers, rail lines, etc). We want to make sure our canvassers stay safe.
- Do not put two neighborhoods in a turf that are far apart. If needed, cut two smaller turfs
- If there are one or two houses that are way out of the way, feel free to leave them out. It's generally not worth a canvasser's time to travel a long way just for a few contacts (unless you are organizing in a rural area where all the houses are far from each other)
- Think about how you'd like the turf to look if you were walking it on the ground.
- If possible, create a turf where a canvasser can start and end in the same place, so they don't have to walk back to their car.
- Make sure that neighborhoods actually connect. Sometimes it may seem like a house is on one street, but if it's on the other the canvasser may have to walk a long way just to get to one house.
- In rural areas, where people may have to drive between houses, cut much smaller turfs (10-20 doors). It takes much longer than you'd expect to drive between houses.
- If you find a house or houses that look like they are in the middle of a field with no roads attached, you can go into satellite view to see if they have roads connecting that VAN doesn't know about. In the upper right corner, click the icon that looks like a layered box. There you can toggle between the street view and a satellite view. (See below)
- If you have a turf that just doesn't work, that's okay. Just make sure to save that one for yourself or for staff, rather than give it to volunteers.
- It is always good practice to slow down and check your work. Giving a volunteer badly cut turf makes them much less likely to come back next time. Good turf makes for a positive experience for staff and volunteers.
Sharing Your Turf With Canvassers
There are a few ways to share turf with canvassers. You can use paper turf (where the canvasser marks every response on paper), list numbers, or send the turf directly to the canvasser's MiniVAN.
First, navigate to the folder where you saved your turf. Click the individual turf you want to use and load it to your list. From there you have a few options:
Paper Turf can be used with folks who don't have a smartphone or are generally less comfortable with technology.
At the top of your list, click the "Print" button.
Under Report Format, Select the appropriate format for Doors, it usually has doors in the name (if you'd like to know more about report formats or would like to create a new format, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Select your script.
The other setting refers to how you want the names displayed. The default settings should work fine, but you can play with how you want them organized.
Click "Next" and follow the instructions on how to download the file. Then print. Your packet consists of a key for all the survey responses, a map, and the individual voters the canvasser will speak with. **Remember to input this data when the canvasser returns (instructions on how to input paper list data will be forthcoming).
List numbers are the easiest way to load a specific list to MiniVAN. You can find them one of two places:
- On a paper list, you can find the list number in the upper right corner of each page. Open the MiniVAN app and enter that number. Then MiniVAN will have your list.
- Go to "My Turfs" (use the left sidebar to search). Then click the downward arrow on the right of the turf you want and click "Generate List Number." Follow similar steps as the Paper Turf Section above, and click finish. A number will appear next to that turf. You can then give that number to canvassers to load into MiniVAN
To send a turf directly to MiniVAN, simply press the MiniVAN button at the top of your list. Then select the canvasser you want to send the list to. When they open their MiniVAN, they will be able to download that list.
*Note: This requires that the canvasser have an ActionID account. All users in your committee will appear as canvassers, as will people who have volunteered with your campaign in the past through OpenVPB.
To add a new canvasser to your committee, go to Quick Lookup, and find the new canvasser. Make sure that the phone number and email in their profile match the ActionID account they created. Then under Voter FIle VANID, click "Add New" next to Canvasser. You will then be able to select them as a Canvasser to send lists directly to their MiniVAN.