Vote by Mail: The VPC started R&D on Vote By Mail (VBM) in 2004. In 2010, the VBM program targeted RAE registered voters with a very high likelihood of not voting in the midterm election. The program was already cost-effective, but the evaluation of the program has allowed the VPC to produce a new breakthrough model of VBM that will increase the return on investment in this critical turnout methodology by a staggering 39 percent.

In the following chart, VBM outcomes are compared between single- and multiple-sourced data on the recipients. The VBM Michigan Test sought to increase turnout by recruiting older voters (defined as those aged 60-70 years-old) by mail by sending them a package with a vote by mail application. Michigan has a unique situation, as older voters are the only citizens who may vote by mail without providing an excuse. Given that older voters are generally responsive to vote by mail recruitment, VBM Recruitment is particularly effective. This graph shows the difference in cost per net additional vote between the original cost in 2010, and future costs with the new VBM model:

In 2008, Vote By Mail was one of a small number of turnout programs that showed a considerable impact in terms of turnout when examining the treatment and control groups.

GOTV Programs: The VPC’s R&D on Get Out The Vote (GOTV) programs has opened new turnout vistas with its dramatic downstream findings. The VPC is the first organization to show that some of its key turnout programs not only generate net additional votes (votes that would not have been cast were it not for VPC’s turnout programs) in the election for which the programs are run, but that the programs continued to generate net additional votes in the next election even though VPC had no subsequent contact with the voter after the first election. In other words, not only was there an initial effect from the program that resulted in more votes being cast at that election, there was also a downstream effect of more votes being cast at the subsequent election as a result of the initial program.

Programs with a demonstrated downstream effect are: the Promise program, Vote By Mail (VBM), and civic engagement GOTV mailings.

  • The Promise program starts with a live phone call to a targeted voter (RAE with a relatively low likelihood of voting) asking them if they intend to vote in the coming election. Once the voter commits to voting, they are told they will receive a mail reminder much closer to the election reminding them of their commitment to vote, and the reminder includes letting them know that whether or not they vote is a public record. They also receive an automated call reminder. This program was first used in the Kentucky governor’s election in 2007, and 40 percent of the effect in 2007 was seen in 2008 without any additional contact.
  • The VBM program sends applications to request a mail ballot to targeted voters (RAE with a relatively low likelihood of voting) in states that permit “no excuse” absentee voting by mail. The 2006 treatment group showed that 33 percent- of the 2006 net additional votes were achieved again in 2008 without any further contact.
  • Leveraging civic responsibility– in 2007 in the Kentucky governor’s election, the VPC built on academic research to develop a variety of GOTV treatments that leverage Americans’ belief they are supposed to vote. The four treatments developed not only produced inexpensive net additional votes in 2007, three-quarters of the effect persisted through the 2008 presidential election.

Partnering with National and State-based Canvass Operations: In addition to running its own programs, the VPC does and will continue to partner with state-based canvass operations to increase response rates and reach.  The VPC work with the Analyst Institute in 2010 showed there are important synergies to be had by combining mail and canvass programs in registration drives.  Combining mail and canvass among targeted individuals was five times more effective than canvass alone:

In 2010 the VPC provided models, training and strategic advice in states like Florida, Wisconsin, and Colorado in addition to running programs.  In Florida and Wisconsin in 2010, the VPC worked with State Voices table partners to overlay their canvass and our phone and mail outreach resulting in a substantial lift in voter turnout where the programs were integrated. In 2011 and 2012, the VPC will be working in states to begin building an enduring infrastructure by sharing our models to improve the targeting, effectiveness and cost-efficiency of their outreach and creating synergies among phone, mail, and canvass efforts.