It could be a lot easier to vote in this country.
Recently, municipalities and states alike have taken steps towards making it easier to vote. From Washington, Oregon, and Colorado shifting entirely to vote-by-mail to Anchorage’s vote-by-mail mayoral election last month, these rule changes are increasing turnout.
Now the challenge becomes building effective digital programs in campaigns where the end goal is getting voters to fill out old-school paperwork and submit it by snail mail.
First and foremost, treat this the way you would any online form: people will start their ballots and won’t finish or submit them. Factor this into your messaging and your communication strategy.
Spend more time talking online about how easy it is to vote by mail, rather than how important it is to vote at all. In an ideal world, everyone would be motivated to cast their ballots in every election, because it’s a key component of our democracy and the right thing to do. In reality, we’re more motivated to complete tasks that are simple and fast, rather than taking on tasks for the good of the republic.
Our firm ran a hyper-successful voter registration program in 2014 on the premise that you can register to vote in just three minutes. Every piece of content related back to that message.
Start here: figure out how long it takes to complete and mail a ballot. Factor that into your messaging. Plaster it everywhere. Push it out constantly across all of your platforms. Run ads with it. Use this as an opportunity to run turnout ads that both push people to return their ballots and are covered in your branding. It’s a win win for your campaign.
Find creative ways to use new or existing online tools to demonstrate how easy it is to fill out and mail a ballot. For example, let tools like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live tell the story for you. Ask your volunteers to post videos when they mail their ballots. Create an organic consensus online of supporters and staffers demonstrating how easy it is.
Leading up to GOTV, replace your commit-to-vote ad campaign with a commit-to-mail-your-ballot campaign. You can segment your email list into people who have already, or will definitely mail their ballots back, people who will return their ballots with the right amount of prodding, and people who are long shots to return their ballots. That way, you’re directing extra communication at the second and third groups and limiting the resources you spend on the first group.
Finally, as with anything, repeat all critical details everyday across every possible platform. Make the important information easy to find and digest. Understand that 18-30 year olds rarely use snail mail, they might have legitimate questions about how they can mail their ballots back. As a millennial, I get my information online and get yelled at by USPS employees regularly for the dumb questions I ask at the post office. Meet people like me where we are — on the internet — and make sure we know how easy it is to mail our ballots back.
For example, in many California districts, you can drop your mail-in ballot in any mailbox without a stamp and USPS will deliver it to the Department of Elections. Very, very few people know this is the case. Break down the barriers to accessing this information.
Emily Gittleman is the digital director at 50+1 Strategies, a political advocacy/campaign consulting firm based in Oakland, Calif.