We all share feelings of stress and panic as we contemplate the damage Trump might do if he is elected to another term. But we are not powerless. There is a way you can make a difference – and it’s pretty easy and quite enjoyable: hold a “party” for your friends to write letters urging unregistered citizens to register and vote. Get started at www.votefwd.org or read on to learn how it works:
Voter participation in our country is notoriously low – but that is because so many people are not even registered! Did you know that in presidential elections, 80% of registered voters cast a ballot? This means that one of the best paths to increasing the number of Democratic voters is simply to increase the total number of registered voters. We know that a majority of unregistered voters have progressive views; and if we can use data mining algorithms to target likely Democrats, we can improve our turnout even more.
Vote Forward, a partner of Swing Left, has developed just such a model. What’s the best way to reach these potential Democratic voters? Send them a letter! Yes, an old-fashioned snail mail letter has been shown to increase voter registration numbers in controlled tests by more than 4%.
Why does snail mail work? People are likely to open our mail because the letters we send are hand-addressed. Studies have found that hand-addressed letters are many times more likely to be opened that computer-addressed mail.
Once people have opened the letter, they will find a voter registration form with instructions, a postage paid mailer to send it in, and a friendly letter encouraging them to register. Depending on state voting laws, some the forms are even partially filled out with the person’s name and address.
Ask anyone in the direct mail marketing business and they will tell you that a 4% response rate is an excellent result. Send 100 letters = register 4 voters. That means we just have to send a lot of letters. (Vote Forward’s goal is 5 million in 2020.) And that’s where the letter writing parties come in.
How do you go about holding a letter writing party? First you create an account at www.votefwd.org. After you receive a confirmation email, you can log in to start downloading letters. To do that, you adopt a campaign, which generally means selecting the state you want to send letters to.
The states targeted by Vote Forward are either GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaigns in special elections or VRBM (Voter Registration By Mail) campaigns in swing states, so read the purpose of the campaign before selecting it. Then you can download letters in batches of 5 or 20.
You can work on these letters by yourself or do it with a group of friends and progressives. The work involves reading the instructions, addressing envelopes and writing a brief, personal explanation of why voting is important to you and finally stuffing the envelopes and mailing them. If you are planning to hold a party, we recommend doing some letters on your own first so that you know the drill and can guide your guests through the process.
If you want, you can post your party on Swing Left’s website. That means it’s visible to the public, and activists you may not know can sign up to attend your event. It’s understandable if the idea of total strangers coming to your house makes you nervous. Those of us who have done it were pretty worried at first. But we have met many new like-minded friends this way and have never had any problems. To post your party, go to www.swingleft.org and click Take Action Now. Scroll down to find Volunteer Events and select Host a Letter Writing Party.
Whether you keep it private or go public, you will want to be sure to have enough letters for all of your guests to work on. Typically, each guest does a batch of 20, which takes them about an hour and a half. Some of us ask our guests to donate their own stamps and envelopes, because, if you do a lot of these, the printing costs can get pretty steep. You can put out some light snacks like pretzels and grapes and offer juice and water to drink; or you can ask a guest to bring some snacks along. (At a recent letter writing party, someone brought homemade cookies!)
We have just under a year to register thousands of new voters. People like us all over the country are doing it. So, let’s all get to work and have some fun in the process!