When Mobilizing Means Your Mailbox
by Joe Ste.Marie
How do you ensure millions and millions of Americans can vote safely in the middle of a pandemic? For many, it’s going to be voting-by-mail. States are revisiting their previous absentee ballot or vote-by-mail requirements and 47% of Democrats say they plan to vote by mailing their ballot in.
This means political advertisers across the spectrum are now engaging on the topic with digital ads to raise money and encourage voters to request ballots. And those digital ads can play a unique role here — they can direct voters right to Secretaries of State to request ballots and remind them to fill them out. Perhaps more importantly, most of the voting groups that Democrats need to mobilize to win are more likely to spend time online. To keep track of all this we’ve added “vote by mail” as a Facebook ad topic to our 2020 Campaign Tracker.
The Trump campaign is talking out of both sides of their mouth on vote by mail. While the President has repeatedly attacked the validity of voting by mail and dangerously derailed the US Postal Service, his campaign is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads to get their supporters to vote by mail. The Trump campaign has focused ads on key states — nearly 60% of spending on these ads has gone to just four states (FL, PA, WI, MI) that were critical to his win in 2016.
The Trump ballot request program repeats the same tired song we’ve seen from the rest of Trump’s ads — “Democrat elites” and the “fake news” are out to stop the “silent majority” and only by voting absentee can you keep them from getting away with it. In video ads, Trump tries to draw a false distinction between absentee ballots and universal vote-by-mail ballots.
In key states, a coalition of Democratic-aligned groups are countering Trumps’ ads with ads advocating for better vote-by-mail laws and encouraging voters to request ballots. In Florida, the SEIU has spent more than $100k, by our estimate, on vote-by-mail ads. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is running ads encouraging voters to call their elected officials and support voting rights, including voting-by-mail.
Priorities USA (in partnership with SMP in Arizona) stood up an entirely separate Facebook page and sub-brand to run ads about voting by mail, with a real variety of creative approaches. Some ads feature a delightfully ’90s aesthetic, while others take a similar tone to their other mobilization ads. They’re also running ads in story streams that encourage voters to “swipe up to vote by mail.”
This will be the most important election in American history for vote-by-mail, and digital ads provide a unique way to engage key groups of voters to request, complete, and return vote-by-mail ballots to defeat Donald Trump.
Explore the data for yourself at our 2020 Campaign Tracker or reach out to Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions.