Post for Office

The 2020 election season is unprecedented, for a laundry list of reasons that keeps getting longer. With multiple integral issues on the line, from the Supreme Court to the environment, the stakes for these coming elections are higher than ever. But no one decided to tell that to the coronavirus. 

Thanks to the pandemic, campaigning and canvassing is harder than ever, at least in the way that we know them. Barring President Trump, most candidates and political organizations have all but ceased in-person events. Unfortunately, that poses the question: how does canvassing happen when knocking on doors has become a biohazard? Well, organizers have been toiling tirelessly to get the vote out by turning to old-fashioned methods: snail mail.

I love getting mail. Flipping through junk mail is fun enough; receiving any sort of personal address makes me positively giddy, let alone handwritten letters. And, as it seems, I’m not alone: a Galllup poll conducted a few years ago finds that 41% of people actively look forward to looking through the mail.

Enter ‘The Big Send.’ 

This past weekend, on October 17, millions of letters were sent to eligible voters. Many organizations were involved, but the effort was spearheaded by Vote Forward, a nonprofit whose mission is “to empower grassroots volunteers to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote.” Following the 2016 presidential election, the founder of Vote Forward, Scott Forman, ran an experiment to see what letter-writing could do. Armed with public voting records, pen, and paper, he sent 1,000 letters and found that compared to a control group of 6,000, the group who received letters had a turnout rate three points higher.

Canvassing and creating personal connections have always been an important part of democracy, and a pandemic doesn’t change that. Organizers and volunteers are still making the valiant effort to not only reach voters but to reach each other. Some volunteers spent quiet hours penning their letters, others joined Zoom letter-writing parties hosted by everyone from local community leaders to ‘Hamilton’ writer and Broadway legend Lin Manuel Miranda. 

Civic engagement is yet another thing that has been derailed by COVID-19, but that just means that it is another thing that we are trying to make the best of in these unusual times, inspiring innovative techniques like these letters.

Personally, I wrote 25 letters that are now making their way to North Carolina — if you were one of the lucky recipients and are somehow reading this, hey there! But even if you didn’t get a letter (my sincerest apologies), I’ll tell you the same thing that was in every single one: VOTE!  

For more information on The Big Send and other grassroots efforts, visit Vote Forward’s website: https://votefwd.org/