One form of activism that people can do easily and safely from home is contacting voters—in their own community, in neighboring communities, in other states. I generically call this “voter outreach”, and it includes phone banking, text banking, and postcard- and letter-writing.
What you say to voters varies:
The tactics also vary, as I mentioned, and I hold that they are complementary: people who text bank reach people who read texts; people who phone bank reach people who answer calls; people who canvass reach people who answer their door; people who write letters or postcards reach people who read their mail. By these powers combined, we reach as many people as possible.
So the most effective method for you is the one you enjoy doing, and are therefore willing to regularly commit time and labor to.
I write postcards. I can write a few per day, and mail them whenever I go out. Sometimes I do letters, depending on what campaigns are going on at any given time, but postcards are easier (no envelopes) and cheaper (lower postage rate).
If you're new to postcarding, check out these organizations that run progressive or explicitly pro-Democratic postcarding campaigns:
These organizations also typically have links to postcards that you can buy, since “where do I get the postcards?” is a really common question from newcomers.
I have started making my own postcard designs and now you can order those, too, from the links in the next section.
The rest of this page consists of resources I've developed over the years to make postcarding easier, including the postcard holder (below) and the Recipient Checklist, and resources for making your own postcards.
Field Team 6 sells postcards already printed with some excellent postcard designs for postcard campaigns such as their own.
There are campaigns for which FT6's overtly progressive, sometimes partisan designs aren't within the campaign's parameters. For example, one campaign I've written for was Activate America's campaign to get people in Arizona to sign up for the Permanent Early Voter List (their nearest equivalent to California's universal vote-by-mail). The instructions on that one were very clear on sticking to neutral, non-partisan designs.
So far, all the postcard images I've designed have been non-partisan, though that may change if I think of a partisan message I want on the front of a postcard.
There are three ways to get postcards with these designs:
I provide the design files for non-commercial use only. Non-commercial use includes both using these postcards yourself as well as bringing them to postcarding parties to share with participants. Please don't sell postcards with these designs.
It's almost election time… (October/November edition) Non-partisan Has bleed General election
Note for people printing at home: This design has a bleed (portion that extends past the edge of the card) off the bottom. Printing it at home may be tricky. You should get this design professionally printed, preferably at a union print shop; advise the shop that this design has a bleed and will be provided with crop marks (those are the crosshairs at the corners of the design files below).
Note for non-Californians: The “Look for your ballot in the mail in early October” is accurate for California but may not be accurate for voters in other states. I can make versions with different general guidance if you tell me when voters in your state should expect their ballots (instead of early October).
Vote by mail. Non-partisan
It's time… to vote! Non-partisan
Updated! 2022-09-21: Improved the quality of the clock image.
It's time… to vote! …AGAIN! Non-partisan
New! 2022-11-21: Added “…AGAIN!” version for runoff elections.
Patch you can print onto the fronts of existing “It's time… to vote!” postcards: patch (4 by 6 inches).
Print this on letter-size cardstock and use a craft knife (X-Acto knife) and cutting mat to cut along the diagonal lines to make the corner slits that hold each postcard. Fill out one postcard, then put it in the upper slot; then, put each postcard after it into the lower slot and copy your script from the upper to the lower.
If you don't have letter-size cardstock, plain paper will do, or you could cut 12-by-12-inch cardstock down to letter size (or at least 8.5-inch width for printing).
Download the postcard holder as a PDF.
I made this a couple years ago for folks who want to print any 4-by-6 image as a custom postcard. Print your image on the front, and this on the back.
This design is available in 1-up (6-by-4-inch), 3-up (6-by-12-inch), and 6-up (12-by-12-inch) layouts.
A good design has at least a short message, and you may want to accentuate with clip art or a (properly licensed and content-appropriate) stock photo.
Some designs aren't appropriate for some campaigns (e.g., because of being partisan), and that's OK. A design that's inappropriate for one campaign may be the ideal design for another.
If seeing existing designs might help inspire you, Postcards to Voters has some (note that most of theirs are partisan), and this page has mine.
The most efficient way is with 12-by-12-inch cardstock, because each sheet evenly divides into six 4-by-6-inch postcards. You can cut slightly smaller postcards from letter-size cardstock, but you'll have scraps and can only do 3 cards per sheet.
(Note that “postcard” refers to a specified thing, and that specification includes a finite range of sizes. 4-by-6 is within that range. 5-by-7 is too large; USPS will consider it a letter. Everything on this page is designed for 4-by-6.)
Unless you have a wide-format printer that can print directly onto 12-inch sheets, your printer probably tops out at 11 inches in width. This means you'll need to cut the sheets down to fit. I use a guillotine to cut them down to 6 by 12, and then print one column of postcards on each strip.
My printer can do two-sided printing of these when using AirPrint, so I typically do that: I use Preview on the Mac to combine the 3-up front and the 3-up back into one two-page PDF, and print however many copies of that. (That's how I made the two-page PDFs in the list above.)
Remember the math involved: each 12-by-12 sheet divides into two 6-by-12 strips, and each strip holds three postcards. That means however many sheets you pull out of the pack, multiply by 6 to determine the number of postcards you'll print. Or, the other way around, if you know you'll need to print a certain number of postcards (e.g., because that's how many addresses you got), divide by 6 to get the number of sheets to pull out of the pack.
Once the strips are printed on both sides, I load them back into the guillotine to split them into thirds. I set the stop at 8 inches, and cut one postcard off of every strip; then move the stop to 4 inches, and divide each strip into the two remaining cards.
I do have a Silhouette cutting machine, but sticking two strips onto the cutting mat and then peeling them off again is more work than it's worth for, effectively, two cuts. If I had a wide-format printer, then using the cutting machine might make more sense for cutting the whole 12-by-12 sheets into six cards.
If all you have is a “photo printer” that does sizes like 4-by-6 but not 6-by-anything, then you'll need to cut the cardstock all the way down to 4-by-6 to start with, or buy blank (unruled) 4-by-6 index cards, and feed those directly into a printer capable of printing on such sizes. (You might not be able to do duplex printing—that is, you might have to print all one side and then all the other. Pay attention to which side gets printed on! Some printers print on the upper side, some on the lower; there should be a diagram on the input tray to tell you which.) Also, you will pay a mint in ink, so that's the point at which it might be cheaper to either get your cards professionally printed or buy off-the-shelf designs.