Majority Strategies’ Director of Analytics & Audience Insights Ashley O’Rourke shares the highlights of her recent panel discussion at Campaign & Elections CampaignTech at Home, “Developing and Executing Digitally-Driven GOTV and Vote-by-Mail Programs in 2020.”
COVID-19 has changed so many things, GOTV included.
2020 campaigns need to be thinking about turnout differently.
The 2020 primaries showed us that new voters were willing to take advantage of the ease and convenience of absentee voting.
Across the nation, we saw record levels of voting by mail, including:
1.1 million Georgians voted by mail in the 2020 primary (returning their ballots at a 74% rate), compared to just 223,576 absentee ballots cast by mail in the entirety of the 2018 November gubernatorial election and only 207,716 in the 2016 presidential election.
Not only did 420,389 Iowans vote absentee in the primary, but they returned their ballots at a rate of 86%. By comparison, 38,000 absentee votes were cast in the 2016 primary election.
Montana saw a substantially higher average rate of return for ballots (65%) compared to the other traditional, vote-by-mail states such as Utah, Oregon, and Washington, likely due to this being the state’s first time conducting an all vote-by-mail election.
With over 1.5 million voters casting a ballot by mail, we saw more voters vote by mail in the 2020 primary then they did in either the 2016 or 2018 general elections. This was nearly 10 times the number of voters who voted by mail in the 2018 primary election.
Communicate Early & Often
Presenting mid-low propensity voters with continued opportunities to vote is a great way to increase turnout.
That includes digital and direct mail encouraging voting by mail as well as follow-up flights to remind voters who have requested to vote absentee to return their completed ballots.
A big thing to remember is time. People are voting earlier, which means campaigns’ timelines need to move up accordingly.
Voters are completing ballots weeks before Election Day. In some states, nearly one-third of ballots came in over two weeks before Election Day.
Not only do persuasion schedules need to move up, but campaigns need to plan for an extended absentee chase operation.
Make It as Easy as Possible for Voters
Be sure to communicate important dates related to vote-by-mail and explain any state-specific regulations related to applying for an absentee ballot.
Many digital ads will drive voters to online portals where they can request their ballot, and direct mail will often include variable data to pre-address the forms for voters to return to the appropriate election authority.
Absentee chase direct mail and digital ads need to communicate fast-approaching deadlines and urge voters to return their ballots “now.”
Effective turnout campaigns will take into account the realities of the “new normal” and adapt.
Campaigns should be well versed in the vote-by-mail regulations in their state to run turnout efforts with a strong focus on vote-by-mail.
Be ready from both a budget and operations standpoint to run those campaigns earlier and longer.