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Designing Your Absentee and Early Vote Strategy

We are roughly four months away from the November elections and even closer to absentee and early voting windows.

We saw a surge in Democrat turnout in 2018. Fast forward to 2022 and the roles have reversed with Republicans anticipating a red wave this fall.

We are roughly four months away from the November elections and even closer to absentee and early voting windows.

What are you going to do to harness the base’s frustration with Democrat leadership and translate that into an effective turnout operation?

COVID caused a shift in when voters cast their ballots in 2020:

  • On average, a 21% decline in Election Day voting across presidential target states
  • Between 32-55% of voters already cast their ballot in most states prior to the two final weeks of the election cycle
  • Voters of ALL parties took advantage of absentee/early voting – across Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, GOP/Independent voters made up a combined 55% of the pre-Election Day vote

We may not see those historic levels of pre-Election Day voting in 2022 but it remains essential for campaigns to plan their absentee and early vote strategies now to ensure they are prepared for this phase of turnout.

What do you need to do?

First, understand the law in your state.

Analyze your state’s absentee and early voting requirements.

Currently 34 states and DC offer no-excuse absentee voting while other states require an excuse to request an absentee ballot, including things like being out of the country or being older than a certain age. No-excuse absentee voting allows any registered voter to request an absentee ballot regardless of reason. In some cases, the state or jurisdiction’s election authority may mail every voter an absentee ballot application.

2020 saw significant changes to pre-Election Day voting laws and regulations. For example, some states that required an excuse to vote absentee deemed COVID-19 an excuse, so every voter was eligible to vote absentee.

Other states took the proactive measure of mailing all registered voters an absentee ballot application or in some cases, an absentee ballot itself. While some of these changes have been rolled back, some state legislatures have enacted new AB/EV laws going into the 2022 election based on their state’s experiences in 2020.

Currently 45 states and DC offer a form of in-person early voting that can include early voting, in-person absentee voting and advanced voting.

Eight states currently conduct their general elections entirely by mail, meaning every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail.

Once you understand your state’s laws, you need to then analyze the voting habits of your electorate.

Before building your voter contact plan, it is critical to understand the historical pre-Election Day voting habits of voters in your state/district and understand how this shifted in 2020.

With that knowledge, you can dive further into specifically when your target persuasion and turnout audiences cast their ballot to help inform your voter contact schedule and budget allocation.

You may find that a large percentage of your persuasion audience votes pre-Election Day. If that’s the case, you need to move up your persuasion voter contact schedule based on the absentee/early voting schedule of your state.

Now identify the right audience.

Remember you aren’t trying to change how a voter casts their vote, but rather you are using this time as an opportunity to turn out mid/low propensity, at-risk GOP voters who might stay at home otherwise.

This is also a wise time to ensure your name ID is built up among GOP voters who are likely to vote pre-Election Day.

The goal of absentee/early voting efforts is to target:

Likely absentee voters, including both Republican Permanent Absentee Voters in states where they automatically receive a ballot and Republican Likely Absentee/Early Voters who have past absentee/early voting vote history, taking into account those who voted absentee/early vote for the first time in 2020 due to the pandemic; and

Turnout Lift Targets, also known as GOP GOTV targets, are mid/low propensity GOP voters who might be at risk of staying home. This audience needs as many touches as possible to ensure they cast a ballot. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the final 72 hours before Election Day to contact these voters. Speak to them well in advance with an absentee/early vote push and absentee chase campaign.

The final step? Select the right absentee/early vote tactics for your race.

You’ll want to design an absentee/early vote campaign that reaches your target voters via a surround-sound approach via both online and offline mediums, including:

Direct Mail/Absentee Applications: All those touches you need begins with mailing absentee ballot applications that typically include two application forms for the voter to complete and mail back to their pre-addressed local election authority. Messaging can feature hot button issues that also showcase the ease and convenience of voting by mail.

Digital/Absentee Push: Once absentee applications are available, digital ads can be run on both display and/or social media to your target audience to build awareness of absentee voting and urge voters to take advantage of this option. This can also be used to drive target voters to a campaign landing page or official election authority’s website with information on requesting an absentee ballot.

Digital/Absentee/Early Vote Online Videos: As one of the best ways to educate and persuade voters online, videos can be run to your target AB/EV audience to persuade them to vote pre-Election Day for your candidate.

Direct Mail/Absentee Chase: Here you are timing the drop of mail pieces to targeted voters who completed and mailed in their absentee applications that may include some messaging on hot-button issues but mainly focuses on urging these voters to complete and mail in their ballots.

Phones/SMS Text/Absentee Chase: Peer to peer (P2P) texting sends messages to cell phone numbers featuring text, images and/or short videos. Texting is great for sending short reminder messages such as returning an absentee ballot.

Direct Mail/Early Vote Push: A piece of mail will be sent to your voters (excluding those who requested/returned an absentee ballot) at the start of the early voting window. Messaging will not only showcase the convenience of voting early (rather than waiting for Election Day) but also feature resources to find the closest early voting locations.

Phones/SMS Text/Early Vote Push: Texting can be utilized to remind voters that the early voting window is open and where they can find their nearest early voting location.

Digital/Early Vote Search Ads: Based on key search terms around early voting, you can run ads that point back to your campaign site to highlight information about your candidate and/or feature information on early voting locations/hours.

We have run countless absentee and early vote programs across the country for local, state, and federal candidates and have seen the measurable impact these programs can have on increasing turnout.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for building an absentee/early vote plan. That’s why we believe in proactively designing a custom absentee/early vote initiative that is unique to each state and the dynamics of each race.

Ready to get started? Contact the Majority Strategies team today.