Newsletter / June 2021

What's ahead at Vote Forward

Scott Forman

Vote Forward Executive Director

I wanted to open a window into how we're thinking about Vote Forward’s efforts this year and next. The Big Send (when 215,000 volunteers sent more than 17 million letters to voters in 2020) is in the increasingly-distant past, and the midterm elections are just over 16 months away (although they’ll be here sooner than you think.)

It's an odd-numbered year, when the pace of civic activity often slows. But at Vote Forward, we haven't skipped a beat. Our efforts continue apace. Why? Because democracy doesn’t maintain itself. It requires active participation from all of us. As we face growing threats to democratic norms, we believe it's our responsibility to mobilize participation that is broader, deeper, and more sustained than ever.

Impelled by that sense of urgency, we've been testing some big new ideas under the umbrella of our Vote Forward Labs program this year. Having demonstrated time and again since my first experiment with handwritten letters in 2017 that this tactic works, our goal now is to refine and improve this and other voter contact tactics over the long haul. Here are a few Vote Forward experiments we've already run this year, designed and executed by my extraordinary colleagues, and powered by the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers like you:

  • We ran a big campaign to say "Thank you for voting!" to more than 280,000 voters in Virginia and Georgia. This was our first big test addressing the question "Can we keep voters engaged throughout the entire election cycle?"
  • We tested a mail-based version of an approach called "vote tripling," in which letter recipients were encouraged to recruit friends and family to vote too, as well as a head-to-head test of the efficacy of highly-personal narrative handwritten messages against the looser guidance we ordinarily give for handwritten messages. These tests are addressing the question "How can we build on the social and relational aspects of voter contact to make programs even more effective?"
  • We ran a test of English/Spanish bilingual letters in collaboration with our partner organization Voto Latino, and we're planning an even bigger version of this for the mayoral elections in Miami and Atlanta this fall, with the goal of speaking more directly and thoughtfully to specific communities of voters.
  • We've just launched what we expect will be our biggest campaign of the year—sending a combination of absentee ballot encouragement letters in September, and "Please vote!" letters in October, to voters in Virginia. Having demonstrated each of these messages separately, we're now investigating the effect of layering them together in multiple waves of communications.

These are just a few of the questions on our lengthy and ambitious research agenda, and we're excited to continue learning and innovating in the years ahead. Based on our findings, we plan to provide you with the most effective actions you can take as volunteers, and to help amplify the impact of our partner organizations and peers in the broader community.

And then, before you know it, it'll be 2022. Based on some back-of-the-envelope calculations, we think we may aim to facilitate as many as 30 million voter contacts next year. The details will depend on what we find in all of our experiments this year. But it's already clear that the program can be even bigger, and the impact even greater, with your support.

What’s the best way to get involved now?