Well, we finally made it. After what seemed to many to be one of the most unique campaign seasons on record, we have finally reached Election Day. If you’re reading this and haven’t voted early or stopped by your polling place already, be sure to take the time to make your voice heard and vote before the polls close in your state.
Along with their importance in having a say in our government, our elections also illustrate the value of paper and paper-based communications in a number of ways.
One of the most significant benefits is verifying the accuracy of our votes. A staggering eight out of ten Americans will vote via paper ballot or electronic machine that produces a paper trail. However, according to NBC News, there are 15 states in which at least some voters will use machines without a paper trail.
In Minnesota, we fill out paper ballots that are then read by a scanner. When the polls close, the scanner tabulates the results and prints out a paper receipt with the vote totals. This receipt is then verified against the number of paper ballots. While all the initial calculations and reporting are accomplished electronically, we still have the physical ballots as a back-up. By law, these paper ballots must be retained for 22 months after the election. In close contests, the paper ballots can be manually reviewed to confirm or correct final totals.
For our friends in Pennsylvania, a large majority (80%) will be voting using machines that don’t have a paper-backed audit. When the switch from paper to electronic happened ten years ago, a group of citizens sued the state saying that a lack of paper trail made it impossible to verify the vote. Despite the nine years of hearings and appeals, they lost the case, and electronic voting machines are still in use.
Direct Mail Plays a Lead Role in Informing Voters
Another way elections demonstrate the value of paper-based communications is evidenced by the importance many voters place on political direct mail. The Postal Service recently commissioned an online survey, conducted by Summit Research, among a national sample of 1,398 adults. The survey determined that more than half (58%) of swing voters said direct mail was “very helpful” or “somewhat helpful” in helping them make their voting decision compared to ads on TV (55%), online (48%) or email (46%).
In addition, likely voters said direct mail was a helpful source of information about registering to vote (68%) and “very useful” or “pretty useful” for information on early voting deadlines (67%). Voters are also highly likely to read political mail, with 60% saying they read political mail immediately and 24% saying they save it to read later. Survey respondents report being “most likely” to use political mail to learn about candidates’ positions on the issues (53%).
The Postal Service also reported that for political information, millennials view both direct mail and digital ads as useful in voting decisions. Nearly four in five millennials (79%) checked their mail box at least five times a week, with 66% checking daily. Millennials match the general population in their tendency to read political mail immediately (52%) or save it to read later (26%). Millennials surveyed also said they found direct mail (62%) just as useful for learning about registration dates as other tactics like TV ads (64%) and email (60%).
Whether you’re on the couch tonight watching the election results roll in or prefer to check the news Wednesday morning, remember the role that paper ballots, direct mail and other paper-based communications tools play in making our democracy function smoothly.
Finally, if you’re running a political campaign or a more commercial marketing program, you can learn more about how direct mail can be an effective part of your integrated marketing campaign by contacting our sales team.
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