The 2012 election season is well underway. With political fundraising at record highs and politics crowding the airwaves, many candidates will use direct mail to connect with donors and get their message to potential voters. These campaigns will have a huge impact on the results of elections of all sizes this year. As more states and municipalities move to vote-by-mail, demand for this service will be at all-time highs. Sending this type of mail is fairly straightforward and can expand your business by supporting these types of mail.

Which Is It? First, you'll need to determine which type of mail you'll be sending. Election Mail is only available for authorized election officials, and includes mail-in ballots, voter registration cards, and other information that enables citizens to vote. Political Mail can be sent by any candidate, campaign committee or other interested party, including Political Action Committees (PACs). Once you've determined the type of mailing, you'll be able to start designing the mailpiece.

Designing the Mail Official Election Mail should use an official logo that is available from USPS, and should be letter sized. Otherwise, color and other design choices are up to you. If you are sending out mail-in ballots, it is highly recommended that the return ballot and envelope be under one ounce, as voters will likely only apply a First-Class Mail stamp. More information about designing Election Mail, including example logos, is available at  

Just about any size, shape, and content can be sent as Political Mail, and an unusual size or material can help make the message stand out among all the pieces voters are likely to get this fall. First-Class, Standard, and several other mail classes can be used for Political Mail, which gives the mail owner a lot of flexibility when designing their message.

Selecting the Audience In most cases, Election Mail will go to a list of registered voters in a specific district. Election officials have a master list of recipients that can be imported into your mail preparation workflow, and it's unlikely you'll need to purchase a list for these mailings.

Political mailings get their mailing list from a variety of sources, and choosing the right list can be just as crucial as the mailpiece design itself. Mailers usually prefer one of three kinds of address lists: a party voter list, voter registration list, or a list of all addresses in a district or region. Some mailers may decide to use EDDM for their Political Mail, but this can be troublesome when carrier routes don't line up with district lines. Also, mailing to addresses, rather than voters, can send mail unnecessarily to people who are not registered to vote in the region where they receive mail. Voter registration lists are ideal for general Political Mail, and party voter or donor lists are best for fundraising.

Message Management Political mail can be a challenge for some mail houses due to their topical nature. Candidates and committees need to get their message out quickly, and often need quick turn-around times to counter messages from the opposing party. Security is also very important for these mail owners - getting even an advance day notice on an opposing candidates message can be a huge advantage. Ensure that Political Mail is handled in a secure environment, and that misprints and other spoilage are disposed of securely. You'll also want to contact your USPS mail entry contact to get the Political drop-dead dates for the areas and districts you will mail to. USPS gives Election and Political Mail priority over other Standard Mail, but after the drop-dead dates they will not guarantee delivery before the election. To let USPS know how to handle this mail, be sure to attach Tag 57, a red tag available from USPS, to each tray and sack in your mailing.

Creative Budgeting Most campaign mailings are under very tight budgets, so you'll want to be able to offer the best possible postage discounts to these customers. Saturation and other high-density mail discounts apply to many of these mailings, and can save mail owners quite a bit on postage. It's important to note that some committees and organizations, such as schools, can send Political Mail at nonprofit rates, but many PACs cannot if they are established as a separate entity from the nonprofit organization.

All in all, Election and Political Mail are a fairly easy way to expand your mailing services portfolio. With several highly contested elections both locally and nationally, direct mail will play a crucial role in shaping our nation's future.