A bond issue for flood control projects was on the ballot for Harris County Flood Control District voters in Harris County, Texas, on August 25, 2018. Facing a lack of issue awareness and other unique challenges that frequently come with a special election, our objective was to leverage a direct mail strategy to engage and educate voters.
The unique challenges to this campaign included the fact that the special election was scheduled for a Saturday and had garnered incredibly low awareness—which made our engagement strategy critical to voter turnout. Moreover, Election Day was held on the one-year anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Harvey, which presented both a challenge and an opportunity.
The objective of the mail campaign was to persuade voters to cast a yes vote for Proposition A. This would authorize the county to issue bonds of up to $2.5 billion in order to finance flood control projects and other storm water and drainage system improvements in the county.
Our messaging and creative approach leveraged the fact that recent catastrophic events underlined the need for voters to think ahead of weather events and devote resources to minimize its effects. The photo used in the mailer, along with the headline “Don’t Wait Until The Next Flood,” resonated with voters.
To achieve our objective, we needed to ensure we delivered the right message to the right voters in the right way. We leveraged an in-depth voter file analysis to identify likely Saturday special election voters and persuadable audiences; sophisticated audience modeling to reach our distinct audience at scale; and precision targeting. We then engaged them in a multichannel communications strategy that included an attention-grabbing mail piece combined with a GOTV phone program to ensure they turned out at the polls on Election Day.
On Election Day, turnout for the Harris County Flood Control District saw a roughly 0.5% bump over comparable special elections in Texas that year. The bond issue was approved 85.66% to 14.34%—an astounding 71.32% margin.
“When was the last time you saw a vote get approved by 85%?” County Judge Ed Emmett said afterward. “It’s remarkable.”
The mailer was also selected by Campaigns & Elections as a finalist for the 2019 Reed Award in the category “Best Mail Piece for a Special Election Campaign.”
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