Remember about six weeks ago when we were all consumed with the Democratic primaries and the upcoming Presidential election? Yeah, seems like a lifetime ago. Now that we have more or less settled into “social isolation” mode we wanted to share a brief guide to resources for getting registered to vote, and getting other people registered too.
It goes without saying there’s a lot riding on the November 2020 election and change isn’t gonna happen on its own. We are going to have to hit this one hard, folks! Here are some tips and resources for getting ‘er done.
Step 1: Check on your own current registration status
“I always vote!” you say. Well, unfortunately many have found out the hard way that their registrations have mysteriously gone dormant, they’ve been purged from the voting rolls, or somehow they aren’t properly registered. So start your voting quest by visiting nass.org/can-I-vote and clicking “Voter Registration Status,” or by checking with your local election office. To find yours, look here: usa.gov/election-office.
Make sure your name, address, and party affiliation are all current and correct. Check your polling place too. If any information is wrong, fix it right away by contacting your election office. It’s not a bad idea to recheck this closer to the election as well.
Step 2: If you’re not already registered, register!
Voter registration requirements vary by state—in 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, voters can register online. Visit vote.gov and choose your state to see requirements.
A National Mail Voter Registration Form is also available at eac.gov/voters/national-mail-voter-registration-form. You can fill it out online, then print and mail. You can also print it out blank, then fill out and mail. Be sure to follow your state-specific requirements. (Please note: Wyoming doesn’t allow registration by mail, and New Hampshire accepts this form only as a request for their own absentee voter mail-in registration form.)
If you’re uncertain about any part of this, reach out to your local election office—find your state’s info at usa.gov/election-office.
Step 3. Make a voting plan
Because COVID-19 has hosed everyone’s plans, we strongly recommend that you request an absentee ballot. Requirements vary by state, but many don’t even ask you to give a reason. Read about your state’s requirements here (but be aware they may change as legislatures grapple with these unprecedented times): vote.org/absentee-voting-rules/. Every state also has its own deadlines; find those here: vote.org/absentee-ballot-deadlines/.
If for whatever reason you are still planning to vote in person, we recommend making a specific voting plan. Lots of people have the best of intentions when they register to vote, but because life happens to everyone (inconvenient!), on election day things fall apart. Studies show that having a specific plan in place will help you get to the polls. Make one for yourself, and encourage everyone you register to make one as well.
Your plan should include details like your polling place; when you’ll vote (e.g., “before my 9am class”); how you’ll get there (walk, drive, public transportation, Uber, etc.); and whether anyone will be going with you.
Use vote411.org’s “Explore Voting Information By State” tool to nail down specific info to help you follow through on your plan. Everything from provisions for voters with disabilities to any ID requirements to candidate and ballot measure info can be found here. Another good online model for making a voting plan is here: missouridemocrats.org/voting-plan/. The Campus Vote Project also offers helpful tips.
Again, our recommendation is that you request and use an absentee ballot, but however you decide to vote, make plan for how it it will get done.
Step 4: Become a voter registration agent, and/or spread the word about voting!
Democratic government needs the participation of as many people as possible. But they can’t vote if they’re not registered. Multiply your impact in the next election by making sure they are!
When we started writing this guide before COVID-19 upended public life, we focused this section on becoming a voter registration agent and hitting the streets or holding in-person events to get folks registered to vote. But now what? We’re in unprecedented times. Who knows exactly what our individual states or nation will look like come election season? Maybe we’ll be in lockdown, maybe not. So we’re preparing for all contingencies.
Below, you’ll find information on becoming a voter registration agent and getting out there to register voters, written for normal times. It still may come in handy—time will tell. But to account for our currently isolated world, we’ve written up a Plan B to maximize your impact and help make sure as many people as possible get the info and motivation they need to get registered and vote.
Plan A: Become a voter registration agent and register folx to vote
First, find out your state’s requirements for becoming a voter registration agent. Because, you know, the LAW. Some states require training for running a registration drive, some don’t. Many have a specific form that must be on file with the local election board. See usa.gov/election-office for your state’s local election office.
Here are a few other links we found helpful:
- The National Voter Registration Day website has great information and resources aimed at publicizing this holiday, which will be observed on Sept. 22, 2020. Check out its page, “Rules for Voter Registration Drives In Your State.”
- The Campus Vote Project offers voting guides, resources for students, advice about making your campus “voter friendly” and much more. Start at campusvoteproject.org/resources and poke around.
- The Voter Registration Drive Guides by the Fair Elections Center includes links to state-specific info for all 50 states. Impressive! See fairelectionscenter.org/voter-registration-drive-guides.
- The Campus Vote Project offers lots of resources for students to engage in democracy. See campusvoteproject.org/resources. Their voting guide is here: campusvoteproject.org/state-student-voting-guides.
- The Campus Vote Project also created a PDF specific to making a voting plan, as well as a great guide on bringing voting sites to campus.
- HeadCount is a 501(c)3 organization with 15 years of nonpartisan voter registration at concerts and events. It offers a great guide for school and community voter registration guides, here: headcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Booklet_Final-1.pdf.
The reality is, satisfying the requirements for becoming a voter registration agent is the easy part. Actually registering voters in person is where this approach is currently tricky. These days, no one’s thinking about standing in public places with clipboards and signup sheets. But, since that could change in your area, we wanted to make sure the information is available. If you will be interacting with the public, be sure you continue to take reasonable precautionary measures—e.g., bring plenty of hand sanitizer, minimize contact, and use tape (not your tongue; ew) to seal envelopes. See the sidebar below for tips.
Tips for a Successful Voter Registration Drive
Use the tips in this section only if circumstances allow safe interactions in public!
Partner with other organizations and events. Groups like the League of Women Voters (lwv.org) have been conducting voter registration drives for ages, and they’re eager to share their know-how. Consider piggybacking your efforts onto National Voter Registration Day (nationalvoterregistrationday.org), the fourth Tuesday of September (that’s Sept. 22 in 2020).
Choose locations based on the populations you want to register. If you know groups that have been marginalized or that could use more representation, go there! Good target spots include transit hubs/neighborhood gathering places, schools (high schools, community colleges, technical schools, vocational/alternative schools), community/sporting events, and places frequented by recent movers.
Publicize your event. Announce it ahead of time on social media. It never hurts to remind people to bring any info your state might require for registration (such as social security number or driver’s license number).
Remember to bring:
- Voter registration forms, clipboards, pens and collection envelope. Wipe clipboards and pens and anything else folks touch after each use!
- If applicable in your state, computers, laptops or tablets connected to the Internet to offer online voter registration (you can use vote411.org).
- Banner and signs, including “REGISTER TO VOTE HERE” sign; tape to put them up.
- Information on/applications for absentee voting & other voting details for your state (visit vote411.org for help).
- Sign-up sheets or pledge cards for voters to keep in touch with your group.
- Extra forms for newly registered voters to share with their friends and family.
- Lots of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes!
Have enough volunteers and find ways for their actions to complement one another. For example, one person can be working the crowd while another enters required information onto forms required by your state.
Be friendly and talk with people. Listen to what they have to say. Engage in conversation!
Keep good records. Many states require you to keep track of the voters you have registered. Follow your state’s rules.
Make sure forms are filled out correctly. Especially check that registrants have:
- Checked the box affirming they are over 18 (unless pre-registering).
- Checked the box affirming they are a US citizen.
- Provided any required identification number, usually their driver’s license number or some or all digits of their social security number.
- Signed and dated the form.
Follow up. Get back on the social media tubes to tout your success, thank everyone who supported your drive, and point others to places they can still go to register. Follow all state laws in returning filled-out forms to your state election official within the required time.
Plan B: Spread the word online about voter registration and voting
If the pandemic thwarts your plans for doing in-person voter registration efforts, shift your efforts to online communications. Use your social media accounts to send out consistent, clear, practical messaging about how to get registered and vote. Here are some tips.
• Talk a LOT about voter registration and voting. Be a broken record! Talk to your friends, your family, even your coworkers about any upcoming deadlines in your state. Do it on videoconference calls, phone calls, and social media.
• Share your state’s info (and the info for other states where you have connections) frequently. We’re talking upcoming deadlines, how to register, and how to request an absentee ballot. Put important dates on your own calendar and make a plan for reminding people ahead of time.
• Organize virtual events. If your state allows for online registration, organize a registration party via Zoom, Google Hangouts, or another videoconference service. Be prepared to direct people to the websites that let them check their voter registration status and state election board websites (we’ve provided those links for you above).
• Partner with other organizations that register voters and see how you can help their efforts. National Voter Registration Day is a good one to start with. Also consider organizations that are in contact with voters who might not be online (for food distribution or other services) to provide voter registration and absentee ballot information specific to your state.
Help us spread the word!
Please feel free to share our infographic! If you can please link it back to www.pyragraph.com/voterguide and use hashtag #SuperchargeYourVote
Good luck! Stay in touch and share your experiences with us!
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Thanks to Lisa Barrow for research and writing, and Eva Avenue for the illustrations.