Vote Forward: Voter engagement with a more personal touch
The Coalition on Human Needs does not, and by law cannot, endorse candidates for partisan office. This is because, like many of the groups we partner with, our nonprofit tax status does not allow it. And because we believe in the rules governing democracy, we adhere fiercely to the laws governing elections and what is considered permissible electoral activity.
But what we can do, In keeping with our mission to lift up low-income and other vulnerable populations, is to encourage people to vote. And so CHN is a proud partner of a broad-based national effort to encourage voter turnout by participating in Vote Forward, a campaign to recruit volunteers to send millions of letters to potential voters in underserved communities in key states. CHN is participating by encouraging our large network of volunteers to write letters through their social campaigns to potential voters in various states.
CHN is part of the Big Send campaign, which involves dozens of groups working together to recruit volunteers to write and mail as many as 10 million letters by October 29. Already, more than 4.1 million letters have been written and are waiting to be sent on the October 29 date. Recently, CHN participated in a letter-writing party with Vote Forward and the cast of Hamilton; 1,600 people attended, setting a new record.
Both anecdotal and scientific evidence shows that Vote Forward works to increase turnout.
Sally Y. of Arizona offers this anecdote of the voter program’s effectiveness:
“My son was an election worker in a north Austin precinct. A young man, on entering the polling place, announced that he was voting because someone sent him a handwritten letter encouraging him to cast his ballot. He said he was so impressed by the letter he convinced a friend to come along with him to vote too.”
But scientific evidence also confirms the program’s success. In the 2020 election, more than 200,000 volunteers wrote and mailed more than 17.6 million letters to potential voters. To measure the program’s effectiveness, Vote Forward purposely did not send letters to some potential voters, thus creating a control group. After the election, analysts compared voter turnout rates among potential voters who received the letters and those who did not.
They found that turnout among letter recipients was 0.8 percent higher, and that the program had resulted in 126,000 additional votes being cast. “To be more precise, we think the impact is most likely between 0.6 and 1.1, but 0.8 points is our best estimate,” Vote Forward says on its web site. “Extrapolating this estimated impact to the entire 2020 Big Send campaign – over 14 million unique voters – translates into a gain of 126,000 votes. When we all work together, small effects turn into big results, just like the act of voting itself.”
CHN partners with Vote Forward in its “social” campaign, which, like CHN, trains its volunteers not to use partisan language in their written appeals. Phrases like “Vote blue,” “We need to elect Democrats,” and “Your vote could help us pick up more seats” are strictly forbidden.
The Vote Forward website advises, “Nonpartisan messages have been shown to be most effective for letters encouraging voting, and we strongly recommend against mentioning specific policies…because something may change between the time you write your letters and the election. General topics that most people agree with such as ‘all children should be able to attend a safe school’ or ‘everyone should have access to quality healthcare’ are fine to mention.”
If you want to participate in the Vote Forward campaign, it is not too late to get those letters written before the October 29 mail deadline. The first thing you will want to do is go to the group’s website and open an account (it’s free!).Then you’ll get simple instructions on how to get involved. You can choose which state whose prospective voters you’d like to send letters to, and how many you’d like to send. You need a printer to print out letter sheets to which you’ll add a brief hand-written message. On October 29, the “Big Send” day, you’ll need to be ready with your letters, and will need to provide envelopes you’ll address and stamps so you can drop them in the mail. And who knows? Maybe this election cycle, several new voters will cast ballots because of you. And maybe they will be voting in very close elections, where every single vote counts. That’s how democracy works!