Ballot access requirements for candidates or political parties cover both personal qualities and proven support from electorates. To get on the ballot, the individual requirements include:
- Age of candidate
- Voting eligibility.
Additionally, they may also require a specific number of voter signatures from their candidature location to prove support. This number differs by state. Depending on where you are contesting, it can range between a flat 7,500 (Georgia) to a percent, like 3% of votes cast in the previous elections (California).
Who sets the requirements that must be met for a candidate to appear on an election ballot?
Since Article I, Section 4 of the US Constitution decentralizes the election process, the states decide ballot access requirements. “…But the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of [choosing] Senators.”
Since most states require you to get the minimum number of signatures to qualify as a candidate, it is clear that your outreach begins much before your election campaign.
You must approach tens of thousands of voters, introduce your campaign and compel them to sign your petition. The main obstacles in such voter mobilization efforts are:
- You require a lot of human power to reach out to a vast list of voters.
- It is time-consuming and cumbersome.
- There’s no guarantee that every door you knock will provide signatures.
- When facing a pandemic, in-person outreach may not be appreciated or safe.
The solution to these issues is to start your work for ballot access remotely and work your way towards acquiring the signatures. In this post, we discuss how to collect signatures via text and call for ballot access requirements.
Does ballot access count online petition signatures?
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way some states look at political ballot requirements. Hitherto, no state allowed electronic signatures on ballot access petitions.
However, since social distancing is of paramount importance in the current scenario, campaigns and candidates have petitioned to include e-signatures for referendums and ballot line (ballot access) petitions. Consequently, some states have allowed the collection of electronic signatures for candidate nomination petitions, while some have struck down referendums or bills.
Here’s a list of states that allow or disallow electronic signatures for ballot access.
|States that allow E-signs for ballot access||States that disallow e-signs|
|Arizona allows electronic signatures via E-qual||Mississippi defeated the bill allowing e-signs.|
|Colorado (Denver and Boulder allow e-signatures).||Missouri defeated a house bill permitting e-signatures.|
|Massachusetts allows electronic signatures.||Nebraska does not permit electronic signatures for ballot access.|
|Michigan allows electronic signatures.|
|New Jersey permits e-signatures.|
|Washington DC allows e-signatures via e-Sign app.|
The other 41 states haven’t given a verdict on the validity of electronic signatures for ballot access petitions. For further information on the same, visit Ballotpedia.
Using texts in locations where online petition signatures are allowed
Text messages trump other modes of communication with a 98% open rate and 45% response rate. If you are contesting from a state or city that allows online signatures, text messages can be a handy tool to reach a vast audience quickly.
Here are two steps you need to take to acquire those signatures for ballot access:
Sending text messages manually to prospects ensures compliance with text marketing regulations. That is a considerable advantage, but manual texting also comes with a lot of baggage. For instance,
- It is extremely difficult to procure thousands of phone numbers to contact.
- As your list expands, it gets increasingly challenging to stay in touch over the same phone.
- The person who started the conversation must keep it up till the end. There is no common junction where agents can collaborate.
The obvious solution to overcome these problems is opting for a text messaging software like CallHub. Switching to auto-mode requires one step before you start messaging prospects– getting their consent.
Getting consent generally involves getting people to opt-in to receive your texts. This comprises renting a shortcode and keyword and advertising them on online and offline platforms.
Interested people text the keyword to your shortcode, and once you confirm the opt-in, you can start sending messages to the number while staying compliant with laws.
Such advertisement of your shortcode and keyword also solves the first issue with manual texting, i.e., building your contact list with thousands of numbers.
Follow these tips to advertise your shortcode and keyword with limited resources at disposal:
- Leveraging social circles: Ask friends, families, current supporters, and campaign teams to share the opt-in details with their respective circles. Encourage them to keep the chain going further.
- Advertising on social media: Use your profile pictures, cover photos, and posts to advertise your shortcode and keyword. While you can also post the petition link here directly, asking first-time visitors to supporters can be a high-barrier ask that they won’t oblige to.
- Posters and pamphlets: The traditional way of bringing attention to your campaign– posters, and brochures. Hand them out outside popular spots, put up signs in cafes and restaurants and ensure they make your presence visible in places where your supporters are most likely to be.
Note: It is essential to include your work, political stand, policies, and such other information relevant to your campaign on these advertisement platforms. Only if there’s a buzz about your candidacy would people opt-in to receive text messages.
To know more about using SMS opt-in, read: Getting started with opt-In text messaging.
Once you obtain consent, you can start messaging contacts and inform them about your candidacy and campaign. A mass texting tool can help you send messages to many numbers simultaneously. It also uses merge tags to personalize messages, so each recipient receives a message tailored with their details (e.g., their name, address, etc.)
How to use mass texting:
- Divide your contacts into segments such as location (per city), supporter level, or other categories relevant to you.
- Invest in a mass texting tool like CallHub. Sync your CRM or upload your contact list(s) to the software.
- Create a mass texting (or SMS broadcast) campaign and draft your message, complete with relevant merge tags.
- If you expect replies (broadcast messages allow close-ended responses), create an auto-response flow for each option.
- Use the data you receive from this campaign to inform subsequent broadcast campaigns leading to the ballot access signature ask.
Here’s an example of a broadcast text message:
Use broadcasts to send the following messages to your contacts:
- Campaign or election information.
- News and updates.
- Policies and ideas.
- To gauge support level.
Such broadcasts help in nurturing low-level prospects into confirmed supporters. You can eventually lead up to the final ask of signing your candidate nomination petition to ensure a higher conversion rate than if you directly ask for the signature.
Using calls in locations where online petition signs are not allowed
If you are contesting from a state or city that doesn’t count online nomination signatures, you have to go the traditional way and collect paper and ink signatures. But wait, not so soon. Before you deploy your volunteers to visit homes and engage in doorstep canvassing, there’s one trick to reduce the workload.
Calling campaigns can help you track your supporters better so you can target only those individuals, homes, or localities that are sure to contribute to your ballot access. This will reduce the number of houses you’ll need to visit but will also give you a higher success ratio.
Follow these steps for an effective calling campaign:
- Procure contact numbers. Purchase voter lists, create a web form seeking contact numbers, advertise the link, and leverage your social circle to collect contact numbers. Add them to your contact lists and keep appending the list as required.
- Segment the lists according to support level during or before the first contact. For instance, people who filled your webform are likely to be supporters, whereas you require the first contact to understand supporter levels in purchased lists.
- Use a TCPA compliant dialer, like the Fastclick dialer, to call these contacts. TCPA regulations require campaigns to get prior consent before calling mobile phones with autodialers. Since the Fastclick dialer uses human intervention to dial numbers, it surpasses this regulation.
- During the first contact, you can gauge support level and ask for consent based on your conversations.
- If a contact seems mildly to very interested, continue conversations with them (on the phone or you can shift to text messages) and nurture them to confirm support.
- When they confirm that they will sign your ballot access nomination petition, you can add them to the final list of supporters.
- Include the following information when finalizing their support: name, voting eligibility in your city/state, address, and other family members who will sign the petition.
Steps to take after confirming support over call
- Create a complete list. Cross-check if this fulfills your minimum number for ballot access. If yes, great, move on to the next step (that of collecting signatures). If not, go back to collecting support via texts, calls, social media, or in-person persuasion.
- Create turf cuts and walking lists.
- Plan your schedule to cover each turf before the deadline.
- Assign jurisdictions to volunteers. Get. Set. Go.
- Note the names and numbers of people who signed the petition. Send an acknowledgment text or initiate a thank you call to keep them in the loop. This also marks the starting point for nurturing them into voters.
Ballot access is about understanding supporter level before even being qualified as a candidate. While the traditional method of meeting supporters and collecting signatures does not yet have a blanket alternative, text messages and calls can help you reduce efforts and work smart towards your goal. Since just about everyone in the USA owns a phone, these methods ensure excellent reachability.
Good luck in your quest to get on the ballot!
Feature image source: Clay Banks/Unsplash