Putting time and effort into getting more Liberal Democrat supporters signed up for postal votes increases the turnout of Lib Dem supporters at every subsequent election and is something every campaigner should be doing as part of their plan.
Why postal voters?
Postal votes are sent out by councils around two weeks before polling day and enable an elector to complete a ballot paper at home and return it to the council. Postal votes are particularly useful for people who:
- May find it difficult to get out of their homes
- Are particularly busy with work or caring responsibilities
- May not be around for polling day, e.g. they are on holiday
Postal voters are extremely likely to vote. Over recent years, successful local campaigns have seen a targeted effort to sign as many Lib Dem supporters as possible up for a postal vote. In one election, the turnout of Lib Dem supporters who had received the full literature and doorstep campaign turned out at 83%, in comparison to the overall turnout of 19%.
This high likelihood to vote means that recruiting postal voters who pledge to support the Lib Dems should be a key part of any election campaign.
How to recruit postal voters
The best way to recruit postal voters is to ask residents directly when you are already on the doorstep. Much in the same way with finding volunteers, a direct ask to supporters is likely to get the best results. Make it a rule that you always have postal vote sign up forms with you when you are on the doorstep. You will be able to get them from the council or download a copy from the Electoral Commission website or follow this link.
Some effective reasons to sign up to a postal vote are:
- “It is likely to be very close in our area between the Lib Dems and [main opposition], every vote will make a big difference and voting by post really helps us.”
- “If something comes up on the day and you aren’t able to get to the polling station, voting by post means you can do it at a time to suit you – it could be close and even a few people not making it on the day could make a big difference.”
- If a polling station has moved, or a resident lives remotely from it, voting by post means “it is much more convenient for you to vote by post than have to make a plan for getting to the polling station on the day.”
You can offer on the doorstep to return the form to the council for the resident. If you do this you MUST get the form back to the council within 48 hours. Otherwise, leave a freepost envelope for either your local party or the council.
Direct mail is another great way to reach out to supporters. Connect enables us to make a list of our most likely supporters who are not on a postal vote so we can write to them. ALDC have many examples of postal vote recruitment letters for you to use.
You can also go the extra mile and use mail merge to pre-fill in the postal vote form so all a resident needs to do is complete their date of birth and sign the form.
Make it as easy as possible for people to return the form by including a freepost envelope so they can return it straight away or present the letter so that it can be refolded and returned in the envelope directly to the council.
The priority return address must always be that of the returning officer, although you may include your address as an option. If the forms are coming back to the local party they MUST be with the council within 48 hours of receipt.
Direct mail could be sent during the summer before the election period is in full swing or in the February/early March before polling day. Or indeed both!
Including a vox pop from a local resident who has signed up to a postal vote, or a piece of direct mail in the form of a ‘neighbour letter’ is also a great way to reinforce the message.
Best time to recruit postal voters
- All year round – not just at election time. Whenever you come across a voter who is pledging their support, offer them a postal vote.
- When it is cold and miserable! Pointing out the weather could be like this on polling day has worked well in convincing people to sign up.
- In the run-up to polling day: The deadline of postal vote sign up can add a sense of urgency to the campaign.
- On polling day itself: If you speak to someone on Polling Day and they are not going to vote because life has got too busy, illness or any other reason, this is a great time to get them signed up for next time. Especially in areas which elect in thirds.
- Directly after an election: Once you have entered your marked registers, use Connect to generate a list of supporters that didn’t vote and knock on their doors. This was used to great effect directly after the 2011 elections in Hull when several incumbents lost their seats.
Motivating your postal voters
A huge benefit of postal voters is that they are a discreet cohort who you can target directly to motivate them to vote. Also, as postal votes are sent out up to two weeks before polling day you have a longer period of time to contact them. It is critical for you to have the date from the Council when they are sending out postal votes so you can plan well for this time.
If you don’t have good canvass data on existing postal voters, prioritise this at least a couple of months before Postal Vote polling day. Take the opportunity to ask for email addresses and phone numbers as well to help the get out the vote later on.
An ideal get out the vote plan for postal voters could look like:
- Direct mail to postal voters just before postal votes arrive. This could be in the form of a blue ink letter from either the candidate or another resident to let them know the postal vote will arrive soon and to return it asap.
- Use Connect to create a phone bank of postal voters and contact them the few days before they are due to land. Let them know the postal vote will be with them soon and urge them to return them as soon as possible.
- Repeat the messages in an email to postal voters.
- Phoning is incredibly efficient, but depends on how many phone numbers you have. Phone numbers for around 60% of your list is a good indication that it is worthwhile, otherwise, hit the doorsteps.
- More and more teams are treating the day the postal vote lands with a ‘good morning’ style leaflet. This should remind people that the postal vote will be arriving and can include guidance on how to use
Postal voter recruitment letters
Send a letter with a postal vote form to known supporters (exclude those who already have them).
The letter should explain that voting by post is convenient and safe; and it should include reasons why voting is important locally. For example you might remind them about how close elections have been in the past in your area.
You can either encourage them to send the form straight to your local council or back to you (particularly if the letter also includes a petition on a local issue, etc.). If they return the form to you you must hand it into the council within 48 hours.
With the huge differential in likely turnout, the postal vote is an opportunity that campaigners and councillors cannot afford to miss.
Find template postal vote recruitment direct mail below.
We are asking members to lead action in their areas
The first task will be to deliver a direct mail to Lib Dem supporters who do not have a postal vote, with a follow-up doorstep call a week or so later.
Letter delivered prior which includes a 90gsm DL envelope stuffed with:
- PV recruitment letter – PPP – PDF
- PV recruitment insert – PPP – PDF
- Electoral Commission PV form – PDF
Addressed knock up leaflet:
Our Election Workshop deal
Scores of ALDC members contact us for recommendations of printers and requests to lay out leaflets. In response, we are teaming up with Election Workshop to offer members affordable print, direct mail, artwork and campaign materials.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote specific to your area.