Back in mid-December 2017, in “Neighbors,” I mentioned writing postcards to Alabama Democrats to help get out the vote for Doug Jones. Doug Jones beat the odds and persistent attempts at voter suppression and is now a U.S. senator. Last I heard, his opponent, Roy Moore, was still refusing to concede — but I digress.
Doug Jones’s race for the U.S. Senate was the 32nd campaign of the nationwide, all-volunteer outfit Postcards to Voters (PTV). It was also the biggest undertaken so far by PTV, most of whose efforts have been devoted to campaigns for state legislative seats. 347,709 postcards were written to Alabama voters by 6,376 volunteers. Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
The short version is that I’m now on my 7th campaign, for Conor Lamb, Democratic candidate for Congress in the March 13 special election to determine who will represent Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. This special election was called because the previous incumbent resigned: a vociferously anti-choice congressman, he nevertheless tried to pressure his pregnant girlfriend to have an abortion. Once that hit the news, he was outta there.
PTV started small not quite a year ago. According to the PTV website:
“What started on March 11, 2017 with sharing 5 addresses apiece to 5 volunteers on Facebook so that they could mail postcards to voters in Jon Ossoff’s race [in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District] grew in one month to 1,200+ volunteers nationwide and over 51,000 postcards mailed.
“Now, we consist of over 10,000 volunteers in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) who have written over 500,000 postcards to voters in dozens of key, close elections.”
They’ve now logged 51 campaigns. I’m totally hooked on Postcards to Voters. It’s effective, it’s fun, and it’s educational.
- For each campaign I participate in, I learn something about the district. So far I’ve written for candidates in Alabama, Iowa, Pennsylvania (2), Wisconsin, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
- I’m awed by the caliber of the candidates. The statistics alone are impressive, of how many Democrats, especially women, have taken up the challenge of running for public office. Learning about some of the individual candidates adds depth to the statistics. They’re a pretty amazing bunch.
- I never realized how many special elections take place around the country between one November and the next.
- I’m now paying more attention to state legislative and other “down-ballot” races than I was before.
PTV has compiled an impressive win-loss record, but in most cases it’s a win even when the candidate loses: more blue voters turn out in red districts than ever before, and people realize that voting and even running for office in these places is not an exercise in futility.
My biggest thrill so far (after Doug Jones in Alabama) was Patty Schachtner’s upset win in Wisconsin’s state senate district 10. This district was presumed so safely red that Patty’s win made the national news.
Check out the Postcards to Voters website and you’ll see how creative and individual these postcards are. Being more literary than artistic, I’ve taken to buying Avery postcard stock at EduComp then designing a postcard for each campaign from the hundreds of templates on Avery.com.
On the flip side goes my handwritten message and the voter’s address. For each campaign PTV provides three “required bits”: these generally include the candidate’s name, the office sought, the date of the election, the word “Democrat”, and a campaign theme or slogan. Then you can pick and choose among the optional bits, which include some of the candidate’s positions; the campaign’s website, Facebook page, and/or Twitter hashtag; and general encouragement to vote.
The addresses come without names, so for the addressee we use something generic. My current faves are Most Valuable Voter, Esteemed Voter, and Very Important Voter. We sign with first name or initials only. Often the postmark will suggest where the card came from. In the Postcards to Voters Facebook group I ran into someone who’d received one of my postcards in Wisconsin’s state senate district 10. People who’ve received postcards sometimes wind up writing postcards for other candidates.
It’s pretty cool. PTV’s FB group is hands-down the friendliest, most supportive political group I’ve found online. We share pictures of our cards and tips on supplies and techniques and generally encourage each other. On each election day there’s a thread started so we can follow the results, cheer when our candidate wins, and encourage each other when they lose.
As an antidote to the alternating rage and depression afflicting so many of us in these outrageous and depressing times, I highly recommend writing postcards to Democratic voters. You can write postcards at home or on the road or even at work if you’re lucky (and discreet). Postcard parties make it even more fun, and are a great way to bring in new volunteers.
Here are my other four postcards: