Arizona Is the Place to Be!

After an exciting year in Arizona, we have decided to stay here, build on our successes and the relationships we have made, and help the absolutely critical state of Arizona turn blue for the 2020 presidential election!

We had a great experience in the 8th CD special election, expanded the range of activities for volunteers, developed hard evidence that other activities can be just as effective (if not more) than traditional activities, and traveled across the state collecting stories and ideas about how to make campaigns better.

Now, we are taking all of that and using it to help the Arizona Democratic Party dramatically improve its operations across the board by tapping into the amazing skills of the volunteer community here.

Changes in the State

Big results in the midterm elections show that Arizona is solidly “purple” and moving in the “blue” direction!

Photo of campaign team and volunteers

  • The U.S. Senate campaign was won by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in one of only two Senate seat pick-ups, the other being Nevada.
  • Three other important statewide offices were won by Democrats: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, and Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy.
  • With Anne Kirkpatrick’s seat pick-up in the 2nd Congressional District, Arizona’s congressional delegation is now majority Democratic (5 out of 9 districts).
  • The Arizona State House drew within two seats of turning “blue”. It is now 31 Republicans to 29 Democrats (previously 35 Republicans to 25 Democrats).
  • A key “school voucher expansion” ballot initiative, Prop 305, which was broadly opposed by teachers, lost badly.

Not everything went our way. Some bad, less publicized ballot initiatives won, the Arizona Senate remained 17R to 13D, and the Governor’s race went to the incumbent Republican. But the overall trend showed the potential for positive change when the Arizona population is mobilized.

Expanding Options for Volunteers

One of our biggest concerns has been the lack of options for volunteers other than going door to door or making phone calls.

In the special election, we found out which types of activities volunteer prefer to do. All campaign volunteers who signed up at events or in the office filled out a form to indicate their preferences, and the results were pretty enlightening!

Postcard writing was the favorite activity by far, selected by 65% of volunteers. Office staffing came in second at 38%. On the other hand, going door to door was chosen by only 16% of volunteers.

Here’s the complete breakdown:

65% — Postcard Writing
38% — Office Staffing and/or Data Entry
28% — Phoning
18% — Writing (Letters to the Editor, etc.)
18% — Yard Signs (delivery)
16% — Door Knocking
16% — Community Outreach
11% — House Parties
8% — Driving Voters
6% — Precinct Organizing
6% — Election Protection (legal)
5% — Social Media
5% — Event Planning
4% — Food Preparation
3% — Training
2% — Housing for Volunteers

Given the popularity of postcards among volunteers, we focused a lot of our efforts in the midterm elections on expanding opportunities for volunteers to engage in postcard writing campaigns.

Midterm Elections

We helped Anita Malik’s campaign in the 6th Congressional District organize a postcard operation that led to the writing of nearly 30,000 postcards to voters. The Malik campaign embraced postcard writing, not just using it as a tool for volunteer engagement but incorporating it into their overall strategy as a tactic equal to door-knocking, phone calls, and direct mail. We also helped the Malik campaign increase visibility by organizing volunteers to attend or table community events.

Photo of lighted sign saying Vote Anita

We also worked with educators who were fighting the ballot initiative to expand school vouchers, helping them schedule their election day polling place staffing across the state.

The bulk of our work this Fall was with volunteers in the 8th Congressional District, including Legislative Districts 21 and 22, to help turn out voters for the entire Democratic ticket. We used this opportunity to carry out several experiments to test the impact of hand-written postcards and hand addressed letters.

Postcard Experiments

One reason people are hesitant to adopt postcard writing as a serious campaign strategy is the lack of solid data demonstrating their impact. We did not expect dramatic results from our experiments. In fact, we expected no visible impact at all, given that these voters were the recipients of dozens of pieces of mail as well as endless calls, door knocks, and TV ads. It would be impressive if any one piece of mail were to have any measurable impact. Here is what we found!

1. Hand Written Letters — Turnout

The group Peoria Plus Progressives sent more than 1000 printed and hand addressed letters to neighbors. The recipients were randomly selected from a pool of 2000+ voters who leaned Democratic but were unlikely to turn out to vote. The letters introduced the writer as their local Precinct Committeeperson and told the reader how important their vote would be in the upcoming election.

Turnout rates were 2.0 percentage points higher among recipients of the letters. This is considerably better than the average impact of direct mail on turnout, which is basically 0 (negative 0.2 for campaign mail and +0.2 for non-partisan mail).

While these results were good, we would need to repeat this experiment with a larger group to provide stronger evidence that the impact was due to our letters and not just to chance.

2. Hand Written Postcards — Turnout

Three photos of people collating postcards for mailing

In a larger test, volunteers from Legislative District 21 sent more than 3500 hand-written postcards to people randomly selected from a pool of more than 7000 voters who leaned Democratic but were unlikely to turn out to vote. The postcard design and scripts contained positive, pro-Democratic messages.

Turnout rates were 2.37 points higher among recipients of the postcards. In this case, due to the larger number of participants in the experiments, we can say that the results were statistically significant and very unlikely to have been the result of chance. This may be the strongest evidence yet that hand-written postcards make a difference!

3. Hand Written Postcards — Reduced Undervoting Rates

At the request of the Northwest Valley and Legislative District 22 Democrats, we also developed a postcard project to support LD22’s candidates for state representative.

Every Arizona voter is entitled to cast votes for one state senator and two state representatives per district, but many don’t know this and vote for only one House candidate. If every voter cast all three votes they are entitled to, the number of votes cast for each race should be about the same.

In Legislative Districts with two Democratic House candidates, Democratic House candidates each got an average of 16% fewer votes than Democratic Senate candidates (i.e. a drop-off rate of 16%). Each pair of House candidates lost an average of 12,400 votes due to “undervoting”.

LD22 volunteers sent almost 12,000 postcards to Democratic voters most likely to vote, reminding them to “Vote for Both” House candidates. The drop-off rate in LD22 was only 6.33%. Just by reminding those most likely to vote that they were allowed to cast two votes for House, our postcards may have gained almost 8,000 votes for our two House candidates at a cost of a mere $0.58 per vote.

These are all pretty exciting results! They make a pretty strong case for adopting postcard writing as an important part of any campaign strategy.

What’s Next for Us in Arizona?

While volunteers played a big role in the positive results, Arizona could clearly benefit from further infrastructure development, particularly to take advantage of untapped volunteer abilities.

During our 2018 work in Arizona, we had the opportunity to collect extensive feedback on what was being done in campaigns and on ideas for future improvements. We interviewed more than 100 members of the Democratic and progressive community. While our focus is primarily on volunteers, we also looked at more ways to improve campaigns and to develop year-round operations that would help the community do better in future campaign cycles.

Based on our experience and discussions with stakeholders, we have developed a proposal for a project in Arizona to revamp the infrastructure by building and managing volunteer working groups during the “off” year of 2019, in preparation for the all-important 2020 campaign cycle.

We have much more to tell you about our big plans in Arizona, but that can wait for our next newsletter — which will be coming your way soon!

What Does This Mean in the National Context?

The Cook Report has identified 5 “tossup” states for the 2020 presidential race: the 3 midwestern states that Trump surprisingly won in 2016 (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania), the perennial swing state of Florida, and Arizona.

Arizona will have a critical Senate race, one in which the losing Republican candidate from 2018, Martha McSally, will be attempting to defend the seat for which she was selected, not elected. We will be taking another shot at picking up seats in the 6th and 8th Congressional Districts while we defend CDs 1, 2, and 9.

Arizona could make the difference in Congress, and in the presidential election. It is a critical state, and UpRise has a chance to help in a significant way in 2020.

How Can You Help?

UpRise, and indeed progress in general, is dependent on the actions of volunteers. If you have not already registered to volunteer on, please do so — we will not share your information outside the platform. Explaining your interests and preferences will permit campaigns to search for help — then they will be able to contact you through us without seeing your contact details.

We do still need donations to continue with our effort. If you haven’t done so, please contribute (and if you have already, thanks!).


That will help us to move the UpRising forward without charging large amounts to campaigns, allowing us to help great candidates who don’t have connections to big money.

And may all of you have a positive and rewarding 2020!

Antonia and Morgan

All images by Antonia Scatton (all rights reserved).

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