Can I encourage voting for particular candidates or political parties in my handwritten message?

Not when writing Vote Forward letters. Get-out-the-vote ("GOTV") research has shown that nonpartisan language is more effective than partisan language for increasing voter turnout. Partisan means “one-sided,” and in this context a partisan message shows strong support for a particular candidate, party, or cause. 

To ensure your letters are as effective as possible, avoid partisan language: Do not mention candidates by name, or political parties, which extends to terms like “red” and “blue,” or assume that the individual receiving your letter agrees with you on specific policies.

Relevant examples of nonpartisan language that would be appropriate for your handwritten message include:

  • "Your vote is your voice. Don't miss this chance to be heard."
  • "I want to have a say in who is elected to represent my community."

Relevant examples of partisan language (that should not be used) include:

  • "Vote blue!"
  • "We need to elect Democrats."
  • "Your vote in this election could give us a solid majority." (Here, it's clear that "us" refers to a political party.")
  • "I want to end Mitch McConnell's stranglehold on the Senate."

Vote Forward uses list targeting rather than partisan language in Political Campaigns to encourage Democratic-leaning voters, who vote with some level of infrequently.  So the goal is to encourage someone who may not be planning to vote at all to take action and vote.

What works best

Heartfelt personal messages are best. Some people talk about voting as a way to express themselves, and how important it is to be heard. Others focus on welcoming their letter recipient into a community of voters. You could also describe memories from childhood of going to the polls with your parents, or doing the same with your kids. 

Following research-proven GOTV best practices, the best messages:

  • Foster the recipient's identity as a voter (Note: Research shows the words "voter" and "voting" resonate more than “vote.”)
  • Create a sense of urgency and excitement about voting
  • Make voting seem easy and accessible

What to avoid

GOTV research has shown that partisan messaging is less effective than nonpartisan messaging. This is why we ask volunteers to avoid

  • Mentioning candidates by name
  • Mentioning political parties
  • Framing the message overall in a partisan fashion
  • Assuming that the recipient agrees with them on specific policies.

It’s fine to mention specific issues, just be careful not to assume the recipient agrees with your policy preferences.