A Cutting-Edge 2020 Tactic to Get Out the Vote: Handwritten Letters
To mobilize new or inactive voters this election, adding a personal touch has been key.
By Shay Castle
The hand-addressed envelope stood out to Bria East, next to the sleek fliers featuring smiling politicians promising criminal justice reform or tax cuts. It had been awhile since anyone had written to Ms. East, 26; the letter, signed only “Maria,” evoked her childhood pen pals.
Maria didn’t provide personal details — no last name, no political affiliation. Instead, she wrote about children and the importance of policies that protect them. It made Ms. East wonder if Maria was, like her, an educator.
Ms. East, who lives just outside of Philadelphia, connected with one other part of the letter: A plea to vote in the upcoming election. So she did, casting a ballot in a presidential race for only the second time in her life, and the first since 2012. Having just graduated and in the midst of a move, Ms. East did not vote in 2016.
“That was something that constantly bothered me,” she said, adding that receiving the letter spurred her to fill out the ballot that was laying untouched in her home. “Voting right now is something I need to get out and do.”
That outcome was exactly the aim of Vote Forward, a campaign targeting historically underrepresented populations — young people, Asian-Americans, Black people, Latinos and Native Americans — and likely Democratic voters who sat out the last presidential election.
The effort was twofold: a nonpartisan attempt to encourage voter engagement across the board and a parallel bid to increase Democratic turnout in battleground states.
For the latter, Vote Forward joined with Swing Left, whose goal is to elect Democrats to seats held by Republicans in local and national races. The organization focused on flipping Senate and statehouse seats in 12 states.
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