Conservation league promotes absentee voting with mass mailing

Group sends 130,000 ballot applications

September 28, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters has mailed 130,000 absentee ballot applications to registered voters — an effort that could prove beneficial to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and other candidates endorsed by the environmental advocacy group.

The applications were expected to begin showing up in mailboxes Tuesday. The mailing and follow-up phone calls and e-mails represent the largest voter outreach effort by the Maryland group. In 2006, the league sent out applications and postcards to 70,000 voters. (That was the first election after absentee ballot rules were loosened. There's no longer a need to provide a reason for voting by mail.)

The voter outreach is funded through the league's nonprofit educational arm, so the applications come with no partisan political message, said Cindy Schwartz, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters. The goal of the $60,000 outreach, she said, is to "encourage civic participation."

Schwartz said the mailing list was compiled in part by selecting voters most likely to agree with the positions taken by the league. An algorithm developed by the National League of Conservation Voters scans publicly available consumer and voting data to find the greenest voters. The national group has been mailing absentee ballot applications for more than a decade, Schwartz said.

A report about the 2006 Maryland outreach showed that environmental voters cast absentee ballots in higher proportions than the rest of voters. But the mailings had no appreciable impact, according to the report; had those voters not cast absentee ballots, it concluded, they probably would have shown up on Election Day.

The league used those findings to tweak its approach this time around, Schwartz said. For one, the absentee ballot applications now look "more generic."

"We don't want it to be seen as another piece of campaign mail to be tossed aside," Schwartz said. "We want it to be seen as a serious piece of mail."

All registered voters have until Oct. 26 to request an absentee ballot.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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