“Cutting turf” is plotting canvassing routes for campaign workers to knock on doors.
The term refers to the process of breaking up a precinct map into smaller “turfs” that each contain a certain number of houses or voters.
In modern campaigns, mapping software is used to suggest “turfs” based on the count of voters in each or sometimes based on geography or neighborhood.
The goal is to create a turf that is easily walkable for volunteers out knocking doors.
Campaigns have coined the term “flake rate” to monitor the percentage of volunteers that sign up to canvas voters but end up not participating.
Uses of “cutting turf”
Mother Jones (October 28, 2022): “While it was clear that Robinson’s PAC was active, there was no visible indication inside that its founder was running for office—no flyers, donuts, or volunteers cutting turf.”
San Jose Inside (May 8, 2018): “For the last two years, over 400 teenagers had stormed the streets of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, mastering the science of cutting turf and the art of voter persuasion.”
Dorchester Reporter (March 21, 2021): Boston isn’t the one-note act that has been popularized on screen since the 1960s. The Janeys— a fourth generation Black Boston family— were dropping their Rs on the streets of Roxbury while Marty Walsh’s grandparents were cutting turf from the rock-walled bogs of Connemara.”