King County Elections

Midterm Election GOTV

Driving the highest voter turnout in 20 years

The challenge

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm election, the national political conversation was plagued with vitriol and partisan divide. The wounds of the bitterly fought 2016 presidential race were still raw, and stoked by rumors of voter suppression, fears over voter reluctance and apathy persisted. 

King County Elections, which represents one of the largest counties in America, shared this unease. Media markets were saturated with negative attack ads in what would become the most expensive midterm election in U.S. history to date. And to compound fears, Washington state had recently implemented changes to mail-in-ballot rules, which many speculated would add confusion and suppress voter turnout.

The idea

True Blue Strategies, King County Elections’ trusted public affairs partner since 2016, was tapped to orchestrate a dedicated push against the strong headwinds in the 2018 midterm elections. We knew that clarity and creativity would be key to drive voter turnout. King County, Washington is also a politically diverse region — so it was essential their get-out-the-vote efforts be engaging, while remaining broadly inclusive and nonpartisan. 

Our team developed a cross-channel advertising strategy and campaign to encourage voter registration, increase voter turnout through empowerment, and provide clarity to the state’s new voter registration laws and mail-in-ballot changes. Campaign messaging was carefully crafted to ensure King County Elections would inspire all voters. We created catchy and motivating campaign taglines that addressed the Why and How of voting. “It doesn’t matter where you stand. It just matters that you do.” spoke broadly to the Why, pulling on voters’ civic duty to participate in democracy. “No Stamp Needed” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot” playfully informed voters about the new ballot drop box system.

The work

The campaign featured engaging and interruptive advertising across both traditional and new media. It included targeted social media advertising on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat; digital display ads in online news publications; TV and OTT; movie theater trailers; and even a large-scale driving billboard. We also utilized in-language advertising to mobilize ethnic and non-English speaking voters. We calibrated each tactic so that diverse audiences received appropriate messaging to inspire action at the right time.

As a testament to the quality and effectiveness of the work, the campaign won a gold for “Best GOTV Campaign” from the American Association of Political Consultants Pollie Awards, as well as multiple “Best in Show” Reed awards from Campaigns and Elections.

Mobile billboard

The impact

The campaign led to King County achieving its highest voter turnout for a midterm election in more than 20 years, outperforming the national average by 27 points. Registrations also jumped as a direct result of the campaign, with 90,000 new voters in 2018 a staggering 30,000 more voters registered than in the 2014 midterm election. 

In the end, not only was King County Elections able to demonstrate its effectiveness as a taxpayer-funded agency, they showed voters that engaging with democracy is both easy and imperative.

AAPC Pollie Awards
Campaigns & Elections
Reed Awards