Why Write Letters
Many of you really enjoy writing postcards and I prefer postcards myself! But consider this:
- Letters generally involve less writing: the letter is pre-printed with information, and you only write as much or as little of your personal message as you want. Some people write only one sentence.
- If you struggle with legibility, the important information is already printed, so there's little risk that the voter will miss some important detail.
- The effectiveness of letters vs. postcards has not been established so far, so by writing both we're spreading our risks.
- For some key states (e.g., OH), there are currently no postcard campaigns, only letters.
- By writing letters, we support the big push to send millions of letters endorsed by many organizations such as Swing Left, Indivisible, Stand Up America, J Street and others.
Why Write Not Only Letters
Just as we want to hedge our risks with regards to the effectiveness of postcards vs. letters, we want to hedge our bets with regards to various campaigns. Writing letters currently only encompasses one very specific type of campaign - reaching unlikely voters. There's a reason why few candidate campaigns spend time reaching out to them - they're unlikely to vote! Consider that on top of uncertain safety climate in the fall, they're probably even less likely to come out than before. On the other hand, it's possible since no one ever reaches out to those people, our message could make an impact. At any rate, we probably wouldn't want to put all of our eggs into that basket. So let's write to various campaigns!
Why Local Races
While much of what we write is for registering and turning voters in general, we are and absolutely will be writing for specific candidates, with many (possibly most!) for state legislatures. I used to think, "who cares about local races, I only care about the Senate and President". But, things are more complicated.
- If Democrats only come out for the presidential race, they lose overall (and sometimes, the actual presidential race too). Republicans understand this very well, they fight for every single race, down to school boards. Koch brothers gave most of their money for local races. State Congresses and Assemblies determine the redistricting/gerrymandering and Electoral College electors. State Supreme Courts and Secretaries of State determine how the elections are run (including presidential ones!); and as Stalin said, who counts the votes is the one who determines the winner. Local candidates are the ones who go on to run for state government and then onto US Congress & Senate. They build up their connections, credibility, donors, and so on locally first, and then bring that power to bear on their next race. Lisa Murkowski won the Senate seat not because she was Republican, but because she was tenacious and respected in Alaska.
Local races are more likely to build lasting Dem infrastructure. Top-level races are often run by consultants or staff that helicopter into the state for a few months and then helicopter out. The local races are run by people who really care about that community. The lack of persistent Democratic party presence in every single locality has led to Democrats losing the legislatures around the country. We should want to reverse it. People who volunteer and vote locally are more likely to get involved and show Dem party is there for the people.
Unfortunately, Democratic voting, unlike Republican voting, suffers from a significant roll-off effect: i.e., people who come out to vote for President or Governor or Senator do not then vote for other Democrats down the tickets. Which is how we end up with Democrats in control of only 36% of state legislative chambers, Republican control the Supreme Court, and every election is at a knife's edge. We need to catch up.
There's hope, however: there's an effect opposite of the roll-off one: if people come out to vote for their local state Representative or state Supreme Court Justice, they are more likely to vote Democrat for that person AND for their US Senator AND for the President. People generally can be relied more to vote up ballot rather than down.
In general, people need to be convinced to come out to vote a lot more than they need to be convinced to vote for a particular person, especially in these polarized times. If all Democrats came out to vote, we'd completely rout Republicans. And branding advertising works. The more something is mentioned, the more likely it is to stick in person's mind. Every time we reach out to a voter (one time to get them to register, another time to vote in primary, another - to vote for a special election, another - to register to vote by mail, another - to vote for their state rep, another - for US Congress, etc), every single contact increases the presence of "you must vote" idea in their mind. Every contact is a potential tipping point to make that person come out to vote.