RICHMOND — My grandmother commonly sent penny postcards instead of writing letters. The messages held little drama — basically reporting the weather, how many eggs she collected that day, whether the hay was safely in or rotting in the field, how her wash dried quickly on the clothesline.
The cards were cream-colored with the penny postage preprinted on the upper corner in green and were purchased at the post office. One assumes she used them because they were cheaper than letters.
We wrote letters. Then we wrote emails and texts. Postcards were what you sent when you were on a trip and found them in a gift shop. What a difference time makes.
This year, thousands and thousands of volunteers across the country sent postcards urging people in swing states to register to vote and then vote. After November 3, they focused on Georgia, and one resident of that state told a friend she was under an avalanche of phone calls, postcards and texts from all over the country, that she could not believe how many of each. Many different groups were involved. One Georgia partisan group called Postcards to GA recruited artists to create a collection of postcards to promote voting in their state, first for the national and then the January runoff. But Postcards to GA wasn’t the first.
A man named Tony McMullin had started a similar movement in 2017 by giving five addresses of potential voters to each of five volunteers to promote Jon Ossoff’s first primary run. The candidate lost, but the man who came to be known as Tony the Democrat still believed in the candidate and in his postcards.
In the now-famous Georgia races for U.S. Senate seats, 75,000 of Tony’s volunteers in every state sent 8 million postcards to Georgia to get the unregistered to register, get the registered to get an absentee ballot, get people to the polls — all in favor of electing Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. McMullin must be smiling this time.
The Berkshires played a part in the postcard story. In South Berkshire, Joyce Hackett of New Marlborough, founder of Lift Every Voter, now a nationwide organization, recruited 5,000 volunteers who sent out 750,000 postcards.
Her organization is nonpartisan, unlike McMullin’s. According to a story in Berkshire Edge, her goal is to get nonvoters to vote — a campaign the pundits say turned out hundreds of new voters in the recent elections. Some 300 Berkshirites were among LEV’s volunteers.
In Richmond, my neighbor and I put scripted messages on 800 postcards for Tony the Democrat. She handled the logistics of ordering cards and stamps and delivering stuff to my door knob. The deadline each time was always sooner than later. After several rounds, she asked if I wanted to go on — we had moved from notes to Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois to a concentration on Ossoff and Warnock — and I said yes.
So our 30-word, handwritten notes went to places like Hephzibah, Clyo, Alpharetta, Bogart, Lithonia, Monticello and Stockbridge. To my disappointment, I never addressed one to Folkston, where we stayed in a charming B&B years ago and had a float through the incredible Okefenoke Swamp.
And during this somewhat tedious but worthwhile task, I learned that almost none — perhaps none — of Georgia’s residents live on something called a street. They have residences on Deer Hollow Trace, Redbud Lane, Manassas Drive, Winters Chapel Road, Ginger Cake Road and Utoy Circle. My personal favorite was Fern Gully.
More than once, the Richmond post office ran out of postcard stamps and quickly reordered, indicating that our small enterprise was not the only game in town. And dropping cards in the post office slot was far more satisfactory than joining a phone bank. I did that once and realized no one wanted a call from an unfamiliar area code and besides, Americans have stopped running to answer the phone. Messaging has squelched urgency.
The bedlam and agony of the attack on the Capitol last week — the very day that Jon Ossoff’s election was confirmed — took the shine, the proper attention, off his success and that of Raphael Warnock. But in a sad week, one glistening spot showed precisely what kind of change the voters wanted.