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A vote cast by someone who is unable or unwilling to visit a polling station is an absentee ballot vote. These voters traditionally skew older in age and might be serving in the military or living overseas. With physical distancing now in place across the U.S., the demographic makeup of absentee ballot voters is going to change drastically. Before COVID-19, absentee ballot programs were often put on the back burner of a campaign strategy, but this can no longer be the case in 2020.
Each state has its own regulations and requirements around who can vote by mail, so be sure to check what the requirements are in your state. We are currently seeing a push for all states to adopt new regulations around vote by mail so that more people can participate in elections and vote while under mandated stay at home orders.
A number of primaries were postponed earlier this year due to the pandemic, but for those forging ahead with their campaigns through the fall, it will be vital to run an absentee ballot program so voters have the relevant information to cast a ballot for your candidate when early voting or Election Day comes around.
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Some key tactics to implement for a successful absentee ballot program:
- Understand your absentee voters. There will be permanent absentee voters in your district as well as people requesting a ballot for the first time. These audiences should have different outreach plans to optimize your campaign’s time and money.
- Create a direct mail plan. While there isn’t a one size fits all direct mail plan for every campaign, there’s one important piece of mail that every campaign should aim to send—a mailer going out to your entire absentee voter audience (with clear messaging for each group), timed to hit mailboxes within the same week that they receive their ballots from the election department.
- Organize your phone banking strategy. Phone banking is a key tactic for connecting with your voters right now. It will be important to create scripts that empower your volunteers to communicate the specific necessary information a voter needs to cast an absentee ballot and express the urgency of submitting the ballot according to the state requirements.
- Modify your campaign’s digital/TV ads to focus on absentee voting. Absentee voting is not the norm for a lot of voters across the country. It will be vital to ensure your voters feel confident in how they can cast their ballot. This is an opportunity to use your ads to update voters with the relevant information and emphasize why absentee ballots are so important in 2020.
- Be ready to iterate. Your campaign should be working with the local election office to get a daily list of voters requesting an absentee ballot as well as those who have already cast their ballots. When you know who has cast a ballot, you can remove them from your direct mail program and digital ads, and save your campaign resources to reach voters who have yet to cast their ballot by mail or in person.