Chasing Vote By Mail ballots wins elections.
Running a good chase program is like GOTV (Get Out The Vote) every day of the month running up and through Election Day.
A good Vote By Mail Chase program requires commitment, tenacity, organization, and just plain old hard work.
All winning campaigns always have a good VBM chase program in place.
It sounds complicated but it really isn’t and can mean winning or losing on election day.
What is a Vote By Mail Chase?
A Vote By Mail (VBM) Chase is literally chasing ballots, or more exactly, chasing voters and making sure they mail in their ballots.
This all GOTV all the Time. It is like chasing your tail (or maybe the dragon).
With VBM Chase, you are constantly monitoring returned ballots of your identified supporters.
You keep after those voters with your winning message, reminding them to turn in their ballots, until they do get them in.
Here are the basics for setting up a winning chase program.
An effective VBM Chase requires determining your targeted universe early.
As discussed in other articles, polling is essential to determine who you may even have a chance at getting to vote for you.
If you are not polling or at least conducting an automated poll, you will be at a disadvantage.
Figure out the issues and what turns voters on early and build your message around it.
Then make sure the voters know your message long before the first ballots are mailed to voters.
For VBM Chase to work you must know who the absentee voters actually are.
Your voter data provider should be able to give you this information.
They should be tagged in your voter file or system or you should get a list.
However you get it or manage it, this is essential.
If you do not know exactly who is a PERMANENT mail-in voter and who has REQUESTED a mail-in ballot, you won’t be able to run a VBM chase program.
If you want to do a VBM Chase program and win on Election Day you must get in the mail early.
A mail program to early voters and all absentee voters will give you a leg up over your competitors.
When you get your mail out early to mail-in voters you can start the hard work of identifying them.
But you must get your mail out or there will be nobody to identify – because they won’t know who you are.
So get your mail into the early absentee voters as early as possible.
A good Voter identification program is a necessity to run VBM Chase.
You must identify Vote By Mail voters in your targeted universe that have been built on of polling and analysis – targeting.
Again send mail to these voters early and tell them why you’re running and what you want to do in office.
Call voters, email them, knock on their doors (if it’s safe to do so given the coronavirus).
Run your voter identification program early.
Determine who is a supporter of yours and who is not.
Who is undecided and who you can persuade and bring over to your side.
Not having a reasonable idea of who those ballots are for runs the risk of turning out your opponents’ voters.
Think of VBM Chase as another GOTV program.
It just happens every day of the week until election day.
Executing the VBM Chase
Once you have your identified supporters in the Vote By Mail universe you can start your chase program.
IMPORTANT: Start before the ballots arrive.
Have a volunteer or paid phone callers call your targeted absentee universe reminding them that a ballot will be arriving shortly and they can vote for your candidate.
Remind voters that if they do not receive their ballot shortly to contact the local election authority.
About a week or more after mail-in voters receive their mail-in ballots, most local election authorities will publish a list of who has returned their ballots.
You can then check and see what the rules are in your local jurisdiction.
Compare the list of returned ballots to your list of identified supporters that are mail-in voters, remove from your list those that have voted.
This new list of voters is the list you chase.
You chase by calling, walking to, or even mailing reminders to those that have not yet returned their ballot.
Keep repeating the process of removing those that have voted as the updated lists of returned ballots become available.
This process is repeated up to Election Day.
Starting a day or two before Election Day, it is probably best to tell voters that have not returned their ballot that they can personally carry their ballots into the polls — but make sure this is allowed in your area.
Check with your local jurisdiction to make sure you know what the rules are with regards to turning in mail ballots.
Consider paid phone calls for VBM Chase.
If you are a serious contender for public office you should strongly consider paid phones for your VBM Chase program.
If you don’t have a large army of well-trained volunteers that can make your calls and walk precincts, give serious consideration to a paid phone program.
Paid phones, if you go with a reputable vendor like RTBurns, can provide you with professional callers who are well trained.
Contracting with a live call center can give you a lot of voter identifications really fast.
And, they can also follow up with your identified voters for you if you do not have the volunteer resources to do it all yourself.
For these callers, your campaign is not their first rodeo.
They know the drill. They know how to talk to voters. They are efficient, productive, and well supervised.
Paying for live phone calls may not be as expensive as you think and they are a great supplement to your volunteer program.
A live phone paid operation can definitely take much of the burden of a necessary VBM chase program off the shoulders of your campaign.
Do your VBM Chase up to Election Day
Once you identify your Vote By Mail supporters, you must make sure they vote.
This includes chasing them on Election Day if they haven’t returned their ballots yet.
Some people will lose their ballots and your volunteers or campaign workers need to have instructions for them available on what their options are – check with your local election officials and find out exactly what a voter must do to get a replacement ballot.
Many voters will not return their ballots until the very end of the campaign cycle.
Your supporters need to get their ballots in even if its on Election Day.
Each state has different rules on where ballots can be dropped off, who can/can’t bring them in for the voters, and when the ballot must be received or postmarked to be considered valid.
Again, check with your local election authorities and make certain you know the rules on turning in absentee ballots before you get started on your chase program and certainly before you tell the voters anything.
VBM chase can actually be fun but it does take a lot of discipline, tenacity, organization, and just hard work.
In a year when a lot more people will be voting by mail than usual, every candidate that is serious about winning must have a solid VBM Chase program as part of their campaign.