How Going Big With Handwritten Notes Helped Me Win My Local Election

Knowing how effective handwritten communication was in local elections, I made it a cornerstone of my own first campaign for office. Twelve months before election day, I had 10,000 postcards printed out that had my photo and campaign logo on the front, but were completely blank on the back.

With my registered voter spreadsheet handy, I spent a full year penning handwritten postcards to every voter in my entire city. My message was simple:

Dear Smith Family:

Please don’t forget to vote next Tuesday! It would be an honor to get your support this year.


Phil Van Treuren

I even hand-wrote the addresses on each postcard. It took me every bit of a year to finish writing out the 10,000 postcards, and in order to do it I had to dedicate every spare minute of my time to writing (even if I was relaxing in front of the TV, I had a stack of postcards and a pen with me on the couch).

When I was done, I put a first-class postcard stamp on every one (yes, it was expensive to mail them all first-class, but it ended up being well worth it). The week before election day, I took my boxes of handwritten postcards to the post office and dropped them in the mail.

The effect was exactly what I had hoped: dozens of people contacted me to say how impressed they were to receive a personal, handwritten card from a political candidate (something they had never seen before). The voters remembered me on election day, and I was the top vote-getter in my at-large city council race, even though there were three popular incumbents running against me.

To be sure, my handwritten postcards probably wouldn’t have won the race by themselves; I had laid a great foundation with extensive door-to-door efforts, direct mail, phone calls and much more. But the postcards were a unique final touch that impressed upon the voters how hard I would work for them. No other candidate took the time to write them personally to ask for their support, and I was rewarded at the polls for the extra work I had done.

If you really are the type of hardworking candidate who can effectively utilize handwritten assets in your campaign, then it could be just the strategy you need to win your local election. And here’s some more not-so-secret info that should motivate you to whip out a pen: your opponents are, quite simply, NOT going to hand-write anything.

Because it’s so difficult to do, 99 percent of political candidates will not take the time to hand-write vast amounts of communications to voters. Even if they knew for sure that it would win them the election, they would still give up after writing a few hundred postcards; the huge majority of candidates just don’t have the patience and fortitude to stick with it.

Don’t be like most candidates. If you really want to win your election, then do what it takes. Running a campaign that makes effective use of handwritten assets may be difficult, but it’s one of the most effective strategies you can use.

After I had spent a year writing out 10,000 personal messages to all of the registered voters in my city, I had developed a noticeable callus on my finger; in fact, the callus is still there to this day. When the numbers came in on election night, though, all of those seemingly endless hours of writing — and the cramps in my hand that came with it — seemed like a walk in the park. That’s what the joy of winning an election will do for you.