Want to Commit to Caucus? Try a phonebook or a fair booth.

Noticeably absent from campaign websites: the ability to commit to caucus for your favorite candidate.

I’m excited! Excited to head into my junior year studying Politics and Public Relations at Drake University, but also excited because I’m in Des Moines for the 2016 Iowa Caucuses; A dream for a politico like me who’s admittedly been more focused on campaigns than classes for a long time.

More often than not you can find me building websites, frequently political ones. I’ve been lucky enough to launch websites for the Iowa Democratic Party and U.S. Senate campaigns like Bruce Braley’s in 2014.

There’s been a lot talk in the political world recently about how digital and online efforts can support offline field efforts. Iowa, being the first-in-the-nation caucus state, should be the state pioneering those efforts, right?

Yet, even as campaigns continue to battle it out for support here in the Hawkeye State there’s one thing notably missing from many of the candidate’s own websites: I can’t commit to caucus.

I can sign up for email updates where I hit a button that reads “Join” or “I’m In,” but aside from that the only option is volunteering. In order to let a campaign really know I’m supporting them, I have to find them in-person or wait to be contacted by on the ground staff.

On the Democratic side the ability to digitally Commit to Caucus is absent from the websites of Senator Bernie Sanders, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

On the Republican side it’s missing from the websites of Governor Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Senator Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Governor Chris Christie, and Senator Rand Paul (but I’ll admit I didn’t check all of the GOP Candidates sites because there’s what, 20 now?).

The functionality is present on the website of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Digi points for the Jeb! campaign.

“They obviously don’t need it then.” If none of these campaigns have the functionality, is it really important? They’re obviously getting by without it and they already have an email signup form on the homepage.

Here’s why I say they do:

  • It’s only August, even in Iowa, people aren’t thinking about volunteering yet and even if they are, getting someone to respond to a volunteer ask by filling out a form means they’re probably one of the really committed folks the campaign’s already reaching out to.
  • Email sign up forms are great but me only giving you my email and zip code means data teams have to sort through to match that information with real people. Plus, those leads are less valuable to a field team because joining an email list is an “easy,” vague ask that doesn’t necessarily imply full support.
  • With a “Commit to Caucus” form campaigns are getting valuable information from potential caucus goers; email and zip like before but also name and phone number too. Information that allows field teams to followup easily.
  • A digital commit to caucus form also allows you to customize the next action for someone who has formally committed to your candidate. After they commit you can ask them to donate $5, introduce them digitally to their local organizer with a thank you email, or prompt them to share their support with their friends via Facebook or Twitter.

So why is this simple form missing from nearly all of the candidate’s websites? I can’t think of a reason not to add the form, especially as students (and their smartphones) return to campuses across the state in the coming weeks.