New Edition - PolitIQs: The No Show Voter: Novel Tactics to Increase Turnout Among Unlikely Voters

Dear Friend,

The history of election results from a two term president’s second midterm are not often encouraging and President Obama’s approval ratings add to the concern. Most progressives agree that unless we are more creative than we were in 2010,  November 4th will be a long, disappointing night. But recent experiments about mobilizing single women and minority voters offers encouragement.

Professors at Yale University have published two studies (2010 and 2012 statewide elections) on how to mobilize the most difficult of our Democratic targets -- single women and minorities who have registered, but never voted.  Their studies document the positive impact of a single, simple letter reassuring these inexperienced voters that their ballot choices are secret and explaining the protections against intimidation in the polling place.

The CT Secretary of State sent a letter explaining voter protections and ballot secrecy to registered but non-performing voters less than a week before the 2010 mid-terms and produced a 3.9% increase in turnout over those who did not receive the letter. And a follow up review of the same voters in the 2012 election revealed the lasting impact of the mailer. Those here-to-fore non-participating voters in 2010 who got the “ballot secrecy letter” and cast their ballots, again performed better than the control group. Their turnout was 1.5% higher, more than two years after the receipt of the letter.

Another voter mobilization field test again yielding impressive results, comes from the high voter turnout Wisconsin recall election in 2012. This time the letter came from a non-profit, 501(c)3 group rather than a government agency. Following the letter, they saw a 1.5% lift (compared to the control group) among unmarried women and minority registrants who had never voted previously.

Some might scoff at a 1.5% increase but when one considers that mid-terms campaigns almost never spend anything to mobilize these “registered but non-voting”  people and the total costs—postage and printing—for such a letter hovers around 30 cents, the cost-benefit analysis is worth calculating.

We extend our thanks to Dr.’s Gerber, Huber, Biggers and Hendry at Yale for their excellent work on the importance of reminding new voters about ballot secrecy protections. And we offer our apologies to them for any misinterpretations of their work.

If you’d like a copy of the research just click here for CT and here for WI. And if you want to discuss how we are incorporating the work of these and other thought leaders in our direct voter contact programs, please call (601.918.4563) or email.

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

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