Sunrise’s IE General Election Impact

Last updated on 11/3

Sunrise Movement
6 min readOct 27, 2020


Since the summer, Sunrise has been deploying money, volunteers, and resources to have a major impact on youth turnout in the 2020 General Election. Our movement — which is made up of over 100 staff members and tens of thousands of young people across the country — has remained committed to defeating Trump and bringing in the decade of the Green New Deal.

The Independent Expenditure organizing arm of Sunrise Movement focused on swing states in the Presidential race where youth are poised to make the biggest impact, with a top-tier focus on Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and including Arizona, Colorado, and Florida. Across those states, we reached over 2.5 million unique young voters via five different voter contact tactics and deployed over 2,000 volunteers across the country to lead vote tripling on Election Day.

The IE program operates from Sunrise’s firm understanding that young voters are motivated to vote on the issues. Our experience has shown us that once young voters learn about the strength of Joe Biden’s climate plan, more of them feel excited about voting for Biden and even donating their time to get out the vote. As of Election Day, Sunrise has invested nearly $1 million in the General Election IE program — with upwards of $200,000 of that budget being spent on digital ads.

Sunrise IE Programs

Victory Squad

Sunrise built the Victory Squad to tap into the desire that so many young people feel to make a difference. The Victory Squad asks volunteers to give just two hours each week — and then we plug these volunteers into one of our many voter contact programs. One week Victory Squad volunteers may hop on a phonebank registering young voters in Pennsylvania with 100+ fellow phone bankers from across the country, write postcards to young voters in Michigan, or text their peers in Wisconsin. In the first week of its launch, over 1,000 people signed up for the Victory Squad and as of Election Day, nearly 3,200 people have signed up.

Digital Ads & Video

Sunrise Communications has funneled nearly $200,000 into digital ads promotion for both Swing State recruitment and persuasive down-ballot efforts. As of 10/26, our ads reached 312,066 people in swing states such as MI, PA, WI, NC, and MI, as well as 224,277 voters in TX-10 and 925,705 voters via national ads, reaching nearly 1.5 million people across the nation and acquiring 2.75 million video views on paid promotion video ads. Out of those ads, 11,116 unique people have been moved to take action with Sunrise. The IE video team also produced a viral pro-Biden video ad that accrued a natural reach of well over a million viewers across Instagram and Twitter alone and was shared by a large handful of celebrity influencers with millions of followers.

Voter Contact Tactics

As of 7 pm ET on Election Day, the IE program has reached 2.6 million unique voters.

Snapshot of Goals


Universe: Registered voters under 35 in NC, CO, PA, WI, MI, FL who are likely progressive on climate.

Goal: 1,000,000 postcards distributed and 750,000 written.

Overview: Sunrise launched our postcard program following the promising research around the effect of handwritten postcards on turnout. We partnered with designers to create beautiful, unique postcards that would speak to the power of the youth vote. We offered these postcards for free on, allowing volunteers to “pay what you want.” The postcards contain a link and QR code to our Pledge to Vote/Ballot Ready site, and the links have UTM codes allowing us to track the efficacy of this program.

Progress to date: We reached our goal! We set an original goal to send 100k postcards to young voters in swing states, and we sold out our inventory within one day of launching with zero public-facing promotion. We quickly worked to raise money to support the rapidly-expanding program and have now set a new goal, and a few days later was able to re-launch the store with a goal of mailing 1 million postcards. To date, we have exceeded our goal by distributing just over 1 million postcards to volunteers and having a total of 778k postcards sent to voters.

Peer to Peer Texts

Universe: Young voters who are unlikely to turn out, likely support Biden, and residing in AZ, FL, WI, PA, NC, and MI.

Goal: 1,000,000+ texts to target young voters in swing states to encourage them to request ballots, turn out to vote, and turn their friends out to vote.

Overview: We have built a huge volunteer team to do peer-to-peer texting using Spoke. Our program is nimble and data-driven: we’ve been testing all our messages to ensure we’re using the best ones, and we’re experimenting with different ways to increase our rates for vote tripling.

Progress to date: We exceeded our goal! To date, we’ve sent 2.45 million peer-to-peer texts in CO, MI, NC, PA, and WI.


Universe: Young voters who are unlikely to turn out, likely support Biden, and residing in AZ, FL, WI, PA, NC, and MI.

Goal: 275,000 dials, with the intent of talking voters through requesting ballots and turning out to vote.

Overview: Sunrise’s phonebank team is a major powerhouse, and we applied the force to swing states. We put together a “deep canvassing”-style script that incorporated research-tested persuasion tactics and used best practices from the race-class narrative. We’ve held major national phonebanks each month in October with other youth movement partners, including United We Dream Action PAC and March for Our Lives. We’ve also held an additional 20+ phonebanks that were hosted by our network of hubs across the country, primarily by blue-state hubs who were excited to throw down for swing states.

Progress: We exceeded our goal! We set a goal of making 275k dials and to date, we’ve made 385 dials.

Friend-to-friend organizing

Universe: Young people in our Sunrise hubs and on college campuses in NC, WI, MI, and PA.

Goal: Create a friend-to-friend voter outreach network of 5,000 young people.

Overview: We are using the Empower app to leverage the power of relational organizing through our hubs and Sunrise groups on college campuses in North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania to build big lists of young voters. Volunteers on the Empower app load their contacts into the app, and then are prompted by Sunrise organizers to talk with their friends and family about the election. These “calls to action” include asking if their contact is registered to vote and if they will take our Pledge to Vote, which is backed by Ballotready, and ask their friends to vote triple. Sunrise is especially excited about relational organizing as a tool for long-term relationship-building in key communities across the country.

Progress to date: We exceeded our goal! We created a friend-to-friend voter outreach network of over 8,000 young people.

Vote tripling at the polls

Universe: Young people across the country.

Goal: 1,000 Sunrisers sign up to vote triple.

Overview: On Election Day, we’ll have over 1,000 Sunrisers at the polls on election day to talk to young voters and support them to turn out their friends and families to the polls on election day. That night, we’ll watch the election results together and prepare, depending on the outcome, to take further action.

Progress to date: On Election Day, over 2,000 Sunrisers led vote tripling efforts across the nation.

We know the best way to stop Trump from stealing the election is to deliver a landslide Biden win. But if Trump falsely claims victory or makes any moves to halt the vote count, we’ll mobilize in force across the country the next day. Our movement is ready to take action to pressure local and state officials to see through that every vote is counted and ensure that the will of the people prevails.

To view how Sunrisers talk about the General Election, visit



Sunrise Movement

Sunrise is a movement of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis.