The Big Send mail date is now Saturday, October 17th

Published on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A few weeks ago, we wrote about our intention to set a new, earlier mail date. We hadn’t yet chosen the specific date, and promised to do so soon. With the election fast approaching, we’re now ready to set the date for The Big Send:

The official Vote Forward mail date for 2020 GOTV letters is  Saturday, October 17th. Mark your calendars, please! All volunteers should mail their letters on that day. (There will be reminder emails, too!)  

We made this decision with much care and deliberation, taking into consideration the best available data, including two experimental efforts we conducted expressly for this purpose: 

  • We orchestrated a campaign in which some of you sent first-class letters closely mirroring our “please vote!” letters from your homes in 15 states to fellow volunteers in our first 12 key states, keeping careful track of the receipt and postmark dates. Our findings here suggest that mail delivery times have been somewhat but not drastically slowed, consistent with analyses published recently by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. We found that 99% of these letters were received within 7 days, and 90% within 5 days.
  • We also conducted a comprehensive review of the electoral calendars and procedures, and legal and regulatory frameworks of all of our key states to ensure that letters arrive at a point in the electoral calendar at which the recipients will still have time to act, and have options for casting a ballot.  
  • Lastly, we conducted a Vote Forward Labs randomized controlled trial rigorously comparing the impact of “please vote” letters sent 3 weeks vs. 1 week before a Florida primary election in August. In this experiment, the earlier send date was indeed more effective than the later one. This result isn’t perfectly generalizable to the November election, but it significantly bolsters our confidence that it is both safe and prudent to move the mail date sooner than it would be in an ordinary year. 

Based on a thorough review of this evidence and research, Saturday, October 17th it is.

Timing definitely matters. Based on all the available evidence, we feel confident that Saturday, October 17th  is the right mail date to ensure that your letters have the greatest possible impact on voter turnout.  

Expect more details in the coming weeks to help you prepare for mail day and celebrate your efforts. We’re planning to make our mail day a big event.

And then what’s next? Well, there’s more work to do to mobilize voters even after your letters are in the mail! We are researching phone banking, texting, and other options for taking action in the days between October 17th and November 3rd (and beyond). 

But let’s focus on the now: With our new Saturday, October 17th mail date, we only have 24 more days and millions of letters still to write! We hope you'll help us hit our 10 million letter goal by adopting some voters today:

P.S. If you’re unable to mail your letters on Saturday, October 17th for any reason, including post office closures, please send them as close as possible to that day.

Getting Ready to Mail

We wanted to share some tips we’ve gathered from postmasters and mail carriers (who in some cases happen to also be Vote Forward volunteers!):

General mailing tips

  • Blue mailboxes are suitable for mailing up to about 100 letters, double-check that all of your letters drop down into the box.
  • Remove all rubber bands.
  • We’re mailing first-class, so sorting by zip code is not necessary.
  • If you live in a rural area with a small post office, there’s no need to take your letters to a larger post office, so long as there is one pickup by USPS to transport mail to a larger facility each day. You can call your post office to check on this.
  • If your local post office is closed on Saturday, October 17th, just send your letters as close as possible to that day.

Large batches of letters

  • If you can, take your letters to the post office to help your mail carrier out.
  • Feel free to warn your local post office in advance if you're concerned about overwhelming them.
  • If you are mailing 400+ letters, visit your post office ahead of time to borrow a tray. You'll want one for each batch of about 400 letters.
  • If you can’t borrow a tray, use a box.
  • Be sure all of your letters are facing the same direction.
  • If you are mailing a very large quantity of letters and live in a major city or near a USPS sorting facility, it's possible to drop your letters off there, which will cut processing time. You should ask your local post office or mail carrier about how to do this.
  • If you’re not sure where your sorting facility is, ask your mail carrier or at your local post office.

Mailing from outside the continental US

  • From overseas, Canada or Mexico, mail one week early (or earlier based on your experience sending mail to the US).
  • From Alaska, Hawaii, or a U.S. territory, mail 3 days early.

Service interruptions

  • If you're mailing from an area affected by wildfires or flooding, check here for service interruptions; you might need to take your letters to a different post office.

COVID-19 precautions

  • If you are quarantining or don’t feel safe going to your post office, make arrangements with a friend, neighbor, family member, or neighborhood mail carrier to pick up and mail your letters for you. Dropping your letters in a blue mailbox may also be an option if you feel you can do it safely.

For letters you're still writing

  • Remember that handwritten addresses are best.