Latest PolitIQs: Confronting Bogus Voter ID Laws in the Mid-Terms

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Dear Friend,

In six weeks voters in 32 states will confront a series of Voter ID laws written to suppress turnout of the Democratic base. The GOP-sponsored photo ID requirements are a "solution" in search of a problem -- no meaningful evidence exists to justify the new laws, but they are a reality we must address.


Progressives have debated how to address this impediment in GOTV messaging with three trains of thought:  

  • Whistling past the graveyard. Do we not mention the Voter ID laws for fear the admission that voting is now more of a hassle will suppress turnout even more?
  • Demonizing the Right. Do we warn voters of these new requirements and pivot with a condemnation of the sponsors in hopes that the anger will boost turnout?
  • Offering help through the process. Do we explain the Voter ID hurdles, walk them through the solutions, and offer a toll free hotline and website for further assistance?

study published in a recent edition of the Election Law Journal from the 2012 election of minority voters in parts of Virginia and Tennessee points to the last option as our best approachProfessors from Columbia and UC Berkeley conducted an extensive field study testing different mailers and measuring the impact on turnout in the presidential election. In all cases the mailers were simple postcards with no elaborate graphics or photos. On balance, they found that including a toll free number and a "help" website on the mailers produced a 1% lift in the turnout of the target population.

Before we scoff at a 1% differential, it is important to note that this study was conducted during a presidential election when the impacts of direct mail on GOTV are not as significant as in lower salience elections. The treatments generally have more impact in mid-term elections. Moreover, the study found that there is an additional positive impact among other voters in the home of the person receiving the mailings--the spouse, elderly parent or the adult child living in the basement is more likely to vote after another in the household gets the "help" mailer.

We invite you to read the details of the experiment and the explanation of the psychology behind each of the mail pieces by clicking here. We extend our apologies to professors Citrin, Green and Levy for our shorthand explanation of this elaborate experiment. 

And as always, we invite you to join our voter research conversation on Twitter @ChismStrat.

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Chism Strategies is America’s leading direct voter contact firm. We are innovators, grounded in the best social science research, with decades of experience in the field to mobilize voters and change public opinion.


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