A New (Old) Way to Connect With Voters

Letters from voter to voter are a powerful way to connect in the era of (polarized) social media

Taylor White
Mar 10, 2017 · 4 min read

Since the Women’s March, many thousands of people have decided to get involved in helping elect progressives to Congress. Groups like Swing Left, the Indivisibles, and many others have encouraged people that have never volunteered for a campaign to organize for the 2018 midterm elections.

This groundswell of energy is encouraging for progressives’ prospects but it’s possible that some of this energy might go to waste, especially since the midterms are well over a year away. There is only so much people can do to help this far out from 2018: (1) they can organize and meet new people, (2) raise money, and (3) continue to inundate social media with posts about what the administration is up to (or was up to during the campaign).

These activities are essential parts of campaigns but it’s important to note that these are activities undertaken not for their own sake, but for the sake of earning votes on election day. We organize to find like-minded people who can help reach voters with a phone call or a canvass, but the 2016 campaign just ended and voters (especially in swing districts) need a break from phone calls and people showing up at the door. We raise money to fund staff, advertisements, and mail to reach voters with the campaign’s message, but many candidates haven’t announced for 2018 and most campaigns won’t spend money on advertising until closer to election day when more people are paying attention. We post on social media to keep our friends informed but people are tired of reading political posts, every, single, day.

So how should we solve the problem of engaging a ton of volunteers that don’t have much to do this far out from November 2018? And what is the best way to connect with voters in a meaningful way?

This might sound a little old-school and silly at first, but hear me out: volunteers should send handwritten letters to voters in swing districts.

Most political messages are cheap in the sense that they aren’t personalized and they require little effort to produce. Think of what it’s like to receive a mass text message or email — are you more or less likely to read the message, let alone respond knowing that you in aren’t the sole recipient of the message? This is the same feeling people have when they see a generic television ad or a piece of literature like the examples below. Most mailers like these end up in a pile with fifty other mailers that were sent at exactly the same time of the year. Very few people are going to take the time out to consider even a single piece of political mail, let alone sort through the whole stack.

Now imagine what it’s like to receive a handwritten letter from a friend. You get the letter in the mail, knowing that your friend handled that very same envelope and paper, and took the time out to write every single letter on that page. And they even went through the trouble of acquiring stamps! While you might not read someone’s comment or message on Facebook, you are far more likely to read that letter, simply by virtue of the effort that was taken to write it.

My contention is that voters will feel similarly appreciated if they knew even a complete stranger took the time out to write a heartfelt letter on why it’s important to vote or why a particular candidate is best for the job, in their own words, and not some form letter that has been copied and pasted thousands of times. And perhaps a voter that receives a letter like this might even choose to send a response, should the sender feel inclined to leave a return address.

In a world where people are constantly inundated with more information than they can possibly process, especially if they try to keep up with what the Trump administration has been up to, the best approach might be to just slow down and get back to the basics.

You may ask, “how do I know what addresses to send mail to?” Fortunately, it’s possible to build a website that meters out names and addresses of people in a particular congressional district for people to send mail to. Here is a link to a form (also embedded below) to register your interest in sending mail to voters like I’ve described. If enough people express interest, I’ll take the time to build the site. Also, please reach out if you would like to help build a web application like this.

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