How to Get Out the Vote — Even If You Can’t Vote, Yourself
This year’s midterms are being called the most important election of our lifetime — and if you don’t want to take our word for it, take former President Obama’s. No matter where you fall in terms of party alignment, how we vote could impact access to health care, who gets to live in this country, women’s most fundamental rights, and so much more. On the local and state levels, your ballot could include measures to raise the minimum wage, bolster unions, and even decide the fate of abortion rights.
Midterms in the US tend to draw appallingly low voter turnout, but with everything at stake this year — and with so much potential for us to make change — no one can sit out this year’s elections.
There have arguably never been more opportunities to make a difference than this year’s election cycle. And whether or not you’re eligible to vote, there are plenty of ways to get out the vote and have an impact on the midterms. If you can vote, casting a ballot should be the bare minimum — and if you can’t vote, you shouldn’t be discouraged from fully participating in democracy this November. Here’s what you can do:
Check if you’re eligible and/or registered to vote, and get prepared. With little time to spare before Election Day on November 6, it’s time to make sure you’re all set to vote. You can learn whether you’re eligible to vote, registered to vote, and any additional steps you may need to take to cast a ballot at this federal website. You can also learn where your polling place is. There’s nothing worse than showing up to your polling place on Election Day and being unpleasantly surprised when it turns out not to be there — which happens more than you think, even if you’ve been going to the same polling place for years.
And of course, knowing your polling place and confirming that you’re registered to vote aren’t the only ways you should prepare for Election Day. Even if you think you know what’s on your ballot, double check by visiting this website and entering your address to view a comprehensive list of federal, state and local candidates and ballot measures that you can research and take stances on.
Even if you can’t cast a ballot yourself, education and awareness are crucial staples of democracy. You should still learn what’s on the ballot in your community, and share information with friends, families and community members who can vote.
Write a letter to the editor to your local paper. If you feel strongly about a candidate, or a local initiative on the ballot, don’t keep your opinions to yourself. Articulate the reasons why you support the person or cause that you do, and why other voters should consider joining you in voting for your candidate or ballot measure.
All local newspapers have their own guidelines for letters, but welcome a range of perspectives especially about state and local issues. Your letter could have significant impact on your community, and you could reach and influence key voters that might be out of your reach on social media. And whether or not you’re able to vote yourself, your letter could potentially mobilize others to vote for your cause.
Volunteer to register voters in your community. Sure, we can each cast only one ballot, but by helping others register to vote, we can have a critical impact on the election. Visit your city’s website to learn about local organizations that hold voter registration drives in your community and are seeking volunteers, or enter your ZIP code at Rock the Vote’s website to find voter registration volunteer opportunities near you.
Approaching communities that are historically excluded from the electoral process, and informing them about the upcoming election and how to register to vote and cast a ballot, is key to ensuring our elections are inclusive and have active participation. This is also the only way to ensure our elections accurately reflect the will of our communities, and everyone has a voice.
Volunteer for a political campaign — for candidates or ballot measures — in your community. Now that you know what and who are on the ballot in your community, whether or not you have the ability to vote for these candidates and ballot measures, you can do research, take stances, and hit the ground running. Whether you support a candidate for school board or a ballot measure for a clean air initiative, you can visit their websites and learn about opportunities to volunteer in your community.
Volunteering for political campaigns can entail canvassing (knocking doors and talking to neighbors and community members about the candidate or ballot measure you support), phone banking, or preparing informational mailers. And while it might not always feel like you’re making a huge difference, in volunteering for a campaign, you’re forging valuable connections within your community, spreading the word about an issue that matters to you, and playing an active role in democracy.
Volunteer at your polling place, or help people get to their polling places. Find out how to volunteer at your local polling place by visiting this federal website to learn whether you meet requirements in your community. Poll workers play an integral role in ensuring that the vote is accessible to as many people as possible, and everyone has the ability to participate in democracy.
And if you aren’t able to meet the requirements to volunteer at your polling place, there are still plenty of ways to help facilitate access to the polls on Election Day. Visit this website and complete a short form to help drive voters in your community to their polling places.
Personally reach out to the people in your life to remind them to vote. Sharing educational information on social media matters, and can absolutely make a difference in raising awareness about the election and the issues on the ballot. But ask anyone who’s ever worked for a campaign or otherwise been involved in politics, and they can tell you what a critical difference personally reaching out to people in your life can make in mobilizing people.
Strike up conversation with friends and family and talk about the upcoming election. Express to them how important this election is, everything that’s at stake on the federal and local levels, and all the ways they can get involved in addition to voting. Position yourself as the point person among your friends and family to get people the information they need to register to vote, make informed decisions, and play an active role in their communities.
Are you eligible to vote but haven’t registered yet? Get registered now!
(Photo via Drew Angerer/Getty Images. Design by San Trieu/Brit + Co)