How do you get 15,335 personal letters into the mail in a matter of weeks? You enlist the help of volunteers who believe that exercising the right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy, that’s how.
Indivisible North Cascades, a local grassroots organization, contributed to a non-partisan effort by Vote Forward to get out the vote by writing letters to registered voters all over the country who have not cast ballots in recent elections, urging them to vote. Vote Forward’s idea is that our democracy is stronger if people express their opinions by voting, and the organization directs its efforts all over the country, not just in swing states that affect general elections.
“We started in 2017, asking people to vote in that year’s special elections,” says Indivisible North Cascades member Bo Thrasher, who helped spearhead the letter-writing campaign. “We continued into 2018 with the midterm elections, and then it just made sense to keep the momentum for the 2020 election.”
In January 2020, Indivisible North Cascades set a goal of 5,000 get-out-the-vote letters, which would help meet Vote Forward’s target of 10 million letters nationally. “We got so many people wanting to help with this effort,” Bo says, “that we raised our goal to 10,000 letters. Then Vote Forward had the same experience and raised their target to 15 million!”
Bo and another Indivisible North Cascades member organized the effort, getting Riverside Printing to help with printing and scheduling times at the Drop Zone for volunteers to take letter-writing shifts. “People in the valley who I didn’t even know would call me and say ‘How can I get involved in writing letters?’” Bo says. “The letters we sent were written by nearly 100 valley volunteers.”
“Every letter got a personal message,” Bo continues, “but the main theme is that every vote matters and each vote is important to electing leaders who represent us well.” The letters, Bo says, “have a 3.4% success rate, according to Vote Forward.”
That might not sound like a lot, but with only 55% turnout of eligible voters in the 2016 general election (the U.S. hit an all-time high in 1860, with 81%, just prior to the Civil War — which should not reassure any of us), 3.4% is enough to swing an election in a given direction. In randomized trials, voters who received a personalized letter were more likely to vote.
One valley volunteer deserves special mention: Mazama’s Marion Osborne, who single-handedly wrote 1,600 letters! If you see Marion, please offer to carry her groceries or something, because I suspect her writing hand is temporarily out of commission.
Many valley teens were also engaged in the effort, writing to lapsed voters messages like “I can’t vote yet, but I hope that you will.”
We Methow Valley residents have disparate opinions on local, regional and national leadership, as well as on policies and platforms. But I bet we can agree that the upcoming general election is quite possibly the strangest in U.S. history, and that our individual votes count, but only if we cast them. Consider this your letter — please vote.