Nov 01 2018 Want more people to vote? Here’s how to make that happen.
It’s that time of year again! We’re all being hit with “Go Vote” social media posts from celebrities, family members, co-workers, and high school friends we haven’t spoken to in 25 years. On Election Day, at least one person you know will share a photo of their “I Voted” sticker. I’ve even been invited to an election night party for which wearing that sticker is required to gain entry.
But does any of this noise actually make a difference?
Even if each individual tweet isn’t directly translating to a new registered voter (with Taylor Swift’s recent foray into politics being the possible exception, although that is also debatable), the peer pressure does help raise awareness and at least makes some people think twice about not showing up to the polls.
However, if you really feel passionately about your fellow citizens participating in the electoral process, there are some relatively easy – and potentially fun – things you can do to make a difference…beyond smug posts on Facebook.
1) Organize your own voter registration drive.
Identify 5 friends who are not currently registered to vote and get them signed up. If it’s too late to register in your state for this election, make this a goal for the next election. Start now. Even though there won’t be a federal election in 2019, chances are good that something is being decided at the state or local level, and those elections often have much more of an impact on your daily life.
2) Educate your newly recruited voters.
Once you identify willing friends, get them together and have a conversation about candidates and issues. Maybe you don’t want to engage in an issue debate – which is understandable in today’s environment – but make sure your friends at least know which candidates are on the ballot and what measures they will be voting on. Focus especially on local candidates and issues that don’t get as much media coverage. Offer website links to candidates on both sides of the aisle and perspectives from both sides of ballot measures.
Also, make sure your friends actually know how to vote – including where to physically go and how to fill out a ballot. Print out and share copies of sample ballots for your locality. Don’t assume people are comfortable with the process, even if you are. If early voting or voting by mail are available, inform your friends about those options as well. Put together your own personal 1-2 page voter guide and share your contact information to make it easy for friends to reach out to you if they have questions.
3) Physically go to the voting location with your friends.
Whether you form a carpool, or meet for lunch near the polling station and walk over together, make it a fun thing to do as a group instead of just hoping your efforts pay off. If meeting up isn’t possible because of logistics or schedules, stay in touch with your friends on Election Day. Send a text or make a phone call and ask if they voted.
4) Say thank you!
Thank your friends for participating in the democratic process. Saying “thank you” is an important component of any good campaign.
5) Encourage your friends to pay it forward.
Ask your friends to find 5 of their own friends who they can register before the next election. Stay in touch, provide guidance about how to do it, and give encouragement. The more invested someone is in the process, the more likely he or she is to become a frequent voter themselves. And the results of your efforts will be exponential.
Vote With Me app: This is an excellent tool for combing through your contact list and finding friends who may not be registered. The app was created by former Obama appointees and is geared toward Democrats, but the information it provides is publicly available and mostly non-partisan. There’s no reason anyone can’t use it.
vote.org: This is one of the most user-friendly ways to get registered, find a polling place, and learn about early and absentee voting. The website also features a list of voter registration deadlines by state that you can use to keep your efforts on track.
ISideWith: Even though you may know how you feel about every single candidate and issue, not all voters do – especially new voters. This website features a quiz that asks individuals how they feel about certain issues and then suggests candidates who align with those beliefs.
Facebook Town Hall: If you use Facebook, then you should sign up for this feature that connects you with your local elected officials and provides you with a “Constituent Badge” that is displayed next to your name when you engage with one of your representatives on Facebook. It is getting increasingly difficult for elected officials to sort through all the digital communications they receive about issues, and this feature helps them know that you are actually one of their constituents, increasing the chances your voice will be heard.
GetToThePolls.com: This website offers a lookup tool to find sample ballots for your local area. This will allow you and your friends to study the options and make decisions before going to the polls. Let your friends know they can print out this guide, make notes, and take it with them to the polling location. Some people may be under the impression that they can’t take a cheat sheet into a voting booth.
Ballotpedia: This is a great research tool for understanding both sides of the issues you will encounter on your ballot. It’s particularly helpful for states with a lot of ballot measures.
U.S. Election Commission: If you prefer to take your direction from bureaucrats, this website offers official tips and resources to ensure you can fully exercise your voting rights as an American citizen.
Heather Lauer, Owner of Villageous LLC, is a senior public affairs professional specializing in grassroots campaign strategy and management. She has over two decades of experience in communications strategy, digital advocacy, stakeholder relations, coalition building, and brand and reputation management.