Political fliers in the mail: How do I stop receiving them?

How do you know it’s an election campaign? When you can see your mail before you even reach for the mailbox.

You know the sight.

An oversized cardboard flyer for a school board candidate opens the mailbox lid, flanked by a tri-fold mailer with bold red, white, and blue letters declaring that one city council candidate is exponentially better than the other.

And then there are the glossy half-curves arguing for and against an almost identical-sounding proposal.

They collect everything and take it straight to the bin, wondering if there is a way to save all the innocent trees that have unwittingly sacrificed their lives on the altar of democracy.

So how do you stop campaign mail? There are a few ways to do this, but only one is guaranteed to work with most campaigns. And you’ll probably have to wait until next election season to do so in time to make a difference.

People may not know it, but when they register to vote, they are also opting in to receive campaign mailings. Names, addresses and more become part of a county’s database of registered voters, which is publicly available.

“There are vendors across the country that keep track of all this data, and then they use that data for campaigns,” said Peter Rangone, a senior adviser to Rick Caruso’s LA mayoral campaign. The appeal of direct mail is that it allows people to be targeted. TV reaches more people, but direct mail is more likely to target the very voters a campaign is trying to influence.

Data providers also track more than names, addresses and political affiliations. Among other things, they track whether a person votes by mail or in person, returns a ballot early or votes on election day, is a regular voter or a non-voter. Campaigns then order the exact demographic group they want to reach.

“We just provide the data and they have to provide the magic,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of business development at Political Data Intelligence (PDI), a company that sells curated California contact information to campaigns and others. “We don’t do anything that falls under the definition of consulting.” (Full disclosure: PDI provides the lists that the Los Angeles Times uses to conduct polls.)

LA mayoral candidates Rick Caruso (left) and Karen Bass after a debate September 21

LA mayoral candidates Rick Caruso (left) and Karen Bass after a debate September 21. Both candidates’ campaigns use direct mail.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

While direct mail accounts for a smaller portion of campaign spend these days, the total dollar amount spent on mail hasn’t decreased, Mitchell said. “Campaign budgets have increased,” he said.

It’s possible that a direct mail campaign can be rushed by a smaller campaign — Mitchell recalled a State Senate campaign he worked on that sent out an emergency mailing in less than two days in response to a late-breaking allegation of an attack 30,000 pieces was assembled — but a typical mailer typically takes five to seven days to get from the PDF to the printer, to the mail order company and to the post office, he said. Lists can be ordered in advance or spontaneously.

Over the past 10 years, “California consultants have become much more sophisticated in targeting email using the time factor,” Mitchell said, referring to the data point on when people actually vote given the rise in absentee voting and early voting . A decade ago, it was a “rare case” for a campaign to send direct mail earlier to early voters and later to those who cast their ballots on Election Day. “It’s standard practice now,” he said.

But Elisabeth Schendel, a 30-year-old Sacramento resident who estimates that until recently she and her roommate got five to eight campaign mail a day, believes campaigners still don’t really know how to reach people like her.

“We’re millennials,” she told the Times. “We don’t really take information that comes in the mail.”

She says she gets her election information from social media and her own “general curiosity”: Schendel and her roommate do their own research online before filling out their ballots each election day, rather than reading any of the flyers that turn up in the mailbox.

“It’s an overwhelming amount of mail, and since it’s all coming in at once, I’m less likely to look at any of it,” she said.

But Rob Stutzman, a Republican political adviser from Sacramento, disagrees with people who say they throw out campaign mail and don’t pay attention to campaign ads on TV. People like him measure campaign success by movement in polls or results on election day. They also use focus groups.

Stutzman said in a telephone interview that he had seen many such groups, where the first comments from people were that they ignored TV advertising and immediately discarded all campaign emails. “Then 20 minutes later they all describe why they don’t like candidate X because that’s exactly what was said in negative ads,” he said. “It’s penetrating.”

“What post can do that other media can’t do is be addressable to an individual,” he said. “It’s the most targeted campaign method, so it’s still in the toolbox. … It’s a haptic experience. It’s more permanent than an interaction on a screen.”

Campaign flyers from the November 2022 Los Angeles County midterm elections.

Campaign flyers from the November 2022 Los Angeles County midterm elections.

(Photo illustration by James Reed / Los Angeles Times)

So how do you keep campaign mail from cluttering up your inbox?

Some might think the post might help.

E-mail. “The US Mail serves as a safe, efficient, and effective means for citizens and campaigners to participate in the election process.”

It’s very patriotic, but they’re committed to it Not Delivery of political and campaign mail? nope

“If a customer receives an unsolicited marketing email in their inbox, they can contact the company(s) and request removal of their name from mailing lists, request inclusion on a “Do Not Mail” list through the DMA, or throw it just walk away,” Garvins said.

The Do Not Mail list is more specifically known as DMAchoice, a tool offered by the Assn. of National Advertisers, which in 2018 formed the Data & Marketing Assn. acquired what was formerly Direct Marketing Assn. (the DMA). ANA does not provide names for direct mailing lists, but its membership includes “many leading figures in the direct marketing community,” according to its website, and DMAchoice is a way of communicating preferences to that community.

One problem: DMAchoice is just a means of cutting off the bulk mail companies send to potential customers. If an individual is an established customer or donor, they’ve opened the door to direct contact with that company or fundraising effort, and DMAchoice isn’t helping.

But political post falls into a different category because it doesn’t target your business exactly. Campaigns want your vote.

There’s a path that’s beneficial for both campaigners and those looking to break out of the campaign communications cycle, said Doug Herman, a senior campaign strategist for Karen Bass for the LA Mayor.

“That means voting and voting early” so that the vote is recorded and those who trade data can cross your name off the list, Herman said.

It’s not in a campaign’s interest to spend money communicating with people who have already voted, especially when a candidate’s war chest is running low.

But one problem with relying on your vote to reduce your direct mail is that there’s always a lag between when a vote is cast and when a county’s electoral roll is updated.

California’s 58 counties all have varying degrees of efficiency when it comes to those updates, experts said, giving Los Angeles and Orange counties props for their quick work. Thus, there may be a slight delay between when a county updates its voter list and when a mailing list provider picks up that update.

Because assembling and distributing physical mail is a time-consuming process, a mailer can go into production days or weeks before the vote is cast. Then there’s time in the mail, which varies by geography and idiosyncrasies in US Postal Service practices. So voters could receive a mailer in the days after voting.

Still, people who want to vote on Election Day can have their name removed from some campaign lists simply by asking. For example, if someone wants to be removed from Caruso’s mayoral campaign mailing list, all they have to do is ask, according to Senior Advisor Pete Ragone.

“We’re constantly taking people off the mailing list when they ask,” Ragone said. “We’re working really hard to respond to people,” whether they call, email, or even send a letter explaining that they no longer want campaign mail. (Contact information is usually on the campaign website.)

But he added, “It doesn’t mean we’re perfect.”

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-11-02/campaign-fliers-how-to-make-them-stop-coming-in-the-mail Political fliers in the mail: How do I stop receiving them?

Alley Einstein

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