26 thoughts on “Old is New Again, as Activists Use Handwritten Postcards For Voter Outreach

  1. Nice work, and thanks!

    I’m guessing that activities such as ‘postcarding’ produces an effect my wife and I notice in her STEM fundraising events… people get encouraged and energized and often generate even more ideas. It’s amazing what happens when a simple activity ‘demonstrates’ that we are NOT powerless, that we are NOT wihout recourse. The people spring into enthusiastic action, suddenly unburdened by barriers they felt were present before.

    1. Reminds me of the 2008 Obama campaign…so heavily bottom-up! We’d begun a Valley for Obama group in early 2007, before he even announced; went to the CA Dem Convention in March and their fledgling staff literally said, “What are you all doing? We want to share your ideas with volunteers in other states.” People power linked with creativity can do great things.

  2. This phrase on the Ohio postcards, “We used these cards to get out the vote here in Virginia and we hope you’ll vote in Ohio too!” is personal and inviting in a way that is low key. Perhaps that is why it resonates so well.

    1. Exactly why postcards seem to resonate – they are personal & low-key. Good point – thank you!

  3. Thanks for the timely article and positive introduction to your readers who may decide to join us in sending fully-handwritten, fun, friendly election reminders to Democratic voters in key, close elections coast to coast.

    Postcards to Voters complies without exception with all applicable laws. All of the allegations made in the press one week before Hiral’s election by Arizona’s right-wing Public Integrity Alliance were without merit. Their mischaracterizations notwithstanding, neither the FEC or any state elections authority that has reviewed our unique organizational structure and operating process has asked us to modify our approach or told us to stop.

    Republicans will never give us a standing ovation for effective GOTV programs. These are the same people who argue against climate change. It comes as no surprise that a conservative PAC tried to stir things up with only a week to go before the election when all of our postcards to that district had finished being mailed weeks earlier.

    With all the evidence mounting as to the effectiveness of postcarding, we welcome you to learn more about us at http://www.PostcardsToVoters.org

    We are wrapping up our 93rd campaign. Join over 15,000 volunteers who have mailed over a million #PostcardsToVoters since March 2017. Thanks!

    1. Ya thanks aholes for scaring a young 1st time voter w your thinly veiled threat of you better vote or else… We are watching…

  4. Thanks Tony for that helpful confirmation that activists can and should use postcards for voter outreach. And thanks especially for the great work you do to help GOTV for great Dem candidates across America!

  5. Any chance you could switch out your photo of cards with addresses. As a postcarder it is important to protect the addresses of those we write to.

  6. thanks for this encouraging information!

    I’m curious about the source of the research you mention in this sentence: “research into the impact of Trump-era postcarding suggests a shift is taking place.” The link you include goes to a 2014 Vox story which doesn’t talk much about postcarding, and predates the current president.

    Do you have a link for the “research conducted by the Analyst Institute in early 2018 for Postcards4VA and the Women Effect Action Fund” where they showed that postcarding increased voter turnout by .4 percent?

    I’m a librarian by training & a postcard-writer — I’d love to see data that demonstrates our approach is useful.


    1. Yes the first link does go to the early research into impact of postcards vs. canvassing. I relied on the Blue Virginia article from June 22 about Analyst Institute but do not now have a link; just a print-out of the text which lacks link data. Just checked BV website again and cannot find it there now. You may need to query Analyst Institute directly for the study. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help!

  7. I think it’s important to do controlled studies and take into account the effect of households that were also canvassed and/or phone banked. Without that, we can’t really know if postcards make a difference.

    1. Absolutely. The more we know, the better. The anecdotal and “semi-scientific” studies suggest that there’s something going on that’s worth a more disciplined research study.

  8. Maybe we could target with a postcard writing campaign some Republicans in the Senate who appear to have a conscience (Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, etc.), urging them to stand up to Trump by becoming either Independents or Democrats. This is a time that cries out for unprecedented action. I worry about all the damage that Trump can continue to do between now and the November election and when the new Congress takes over in January, even assuming that there is a blue wave.

  9. Larry, many thanks for sharing this post with us. I’ll be saving it in case I do a follow-up blog on postcard use/effectiveness, and I’ve shared your calawayteam post to San Fernando Valley Indivisible’s FB page. We do a lot of postcard work but yours is a novel way to use them!

  10. Thanks – I’m not a member of the Calaway team, but have really liked what they were doing. And their study was pretty well thought out. When you think about it, canvassing and phone banking both intrude upon the recipient of the action. A hand written postcard in the mail is a small treasure. And receiving a text can be done whenever the recipient wants to.

    Another thing about these postcards – they were all targeted at low propensity voters, so any additional turnout is good. If the postcards had been sent to people who always vote, you could say that they voted because of the postcard, and you would get a very good percentage of voters. But if you had a control group that also voted, then there would be no increase in votes, so the effort would have been futile.

    I did looked at the Virginia data as best i could and it looks like 26 or so postcards to the low propensity voters produced one additional vote. Cox, in CA-21, won by 862 votes, undoubtedly the postcard effort there really helped.

  11. Agree completely! We’ve done postcards to both frequent & low-propensity voters, but in elections like 2018 (and likely 2020), it seems likely that frequent voters don’t need the extra push, but postcards to low-propensity voters can create the turnout margin that wins in flippable/savable districts. Our SFVI group did an informal test of several precincts in 2018 and found that the Dem homes to which we’d sent postcards had higher average turnout than Dem homes in same precincts that hadn’t gotten them.

  12. Hi. Robbin from Postcards4VA here. Thanks for highlighting all our great work in Virginia. As you mentioned, in 2017 we mailed 137,000 postcards. We were able to do this with volunteers from Virginia and around the country because people were anxious to help Virginia, one of only a few states that a major election that year. Postcards were part of the grassroots effort that won 15 seats in our General Assembly that year completely surprising the state Democratic apparatus (traditional political consultants and old-time politicians) and political pundits who thought we’d be lucky to win 3 seats. In 2018 postcarding exceeded all expectations when we mailed some 332,000 GOTV postcards with mostly Virginia volunteers writing to Virginia voters.

    How did we get so many postcards written? I’ll tell you our secret: Postcard Parties. People love getting together to write postcards. We saw how popular postcard parties were in 2017. With confirmation from our Civic Engagement study, in 2018 Postcards4VA put a greater focus on parties and the number of volunteers and quantity of postcards produced exploded. We even held a Postcard Party Palooza challenge to see how many parties we could have in one week up and down the state. The number topped out at 74 parties. We are having another Palooza Week this August (the 19th-26th). Within just 5 hours of announcing the Palooza, we had 20 parties listed.

    When we started in 2017, we had to convince campaigns that postcard writing was a worthwhile endeavor. Now in 2019 candidates are coming to us because many of them wrote postcards in 2017 and 2018 and know firsthand the power of postcards.

    Postcarding is now firmly entrenched in Virginia grassroots political activism. When we flip our General Assembly blue in November, there will be no doubt that handwritten personal postcards played a role in getting people to the polls. We write. We vote. We WIN!

    1. Ditto here in SoCA, Robbin. We’re convinced (and have some modest data/lots of anecdotal evidence to support) that postcards are a friendly, low-tech, low-intrusion level way to reach target voters. Using postcards right now in an L.A. City Council special election runoff, particularly to reach residents of gated communities where security staff chases canvassers out, even when they’ve been invited in to the neighborhood by a resident who supports our candidate. So we reach those folks by mail for that “in-person” contact we were seeking. People will at least look at a postcard they receive — phone calls are increasingly being ignored.

      Eager to hear how they help VA candidates this year — and hope you’ll take a look at my more recent blog post on the VA Dems working together to flip statehouse seats this year!

  13. Just catching on to this. Some practical questions, in case someone is still following this discussion: (1) Aren’t postcards just asking people to vote treated differently from postcards asking people to vote for a particular candidate? (2) Am I right in thinking that my postcards will not violate any law so long as I write them myself, make no donation to any campaign in the state I am sending them to, and spend less than $200 on postage and materials? (3) Do campaigns supply postcards? (4) What is the current cost of a postcard stamp? (5) Does anyone have suggestions on how to ensure minimal legibility of hand-written cards?

  14. 1. GOTV postcards and other non-partisan postcards are treated very differently from postcards of a partisan nature – like asking someone to vote for a specific candidate. The former have no reporting requirements as far as I know. The latter certainly do have a reporting requirement, depending on the $$ amount of the effort.

    2. If the cards are partisan, and linked to a campaign (vote for XX cards), then they are an in-kind campaign contribution and the campaign should provide you with the reporting requirements. In addition, if you have someone who provides cards and/or postage and gets reimbursed for those expenses, then, when those total expenses exceeds $1000, they are a “committee” under the FEC rules and have to obey a ton of rules and regulations. So at least have each writer supply their own postage as that is the most significant expense.

    3. I’m not aware of any campaign supplying postcards, but that could happen. PACs and groups usually supply cards. A few also provide postag

    4. Postcard stamps are $0.35 each.

    5. You can have your folks each write a “test” postcard. Those that don’t pass the legibility test can check the postcard addresses for accuracy, stamp cards, and provide other valuable efforts to your groupl

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.