Engaging your Community Vote is a Way to Give Back
Elections present opportunities to lend a hand. There are several ways you can make sure voters in you community are ready and able to cast a ballot on Election Day. Helping people in your locality vote illustrates a commitment to your community and democratic ideals. Below are some ideas on how you can engage your community.
Approximately 3 million people were unable to vote in the 2008 presidential election due to registration issues. That means that nearly 1.5 percent of the eligible American population – more than enough to swing a close election – was disenfranchised for avoidable reasons. Anyone, from individuals to large organizations, can combat this problem with registration drives. Drives are particularly effective in a small communities or sub-communities where people can receive assistance registering to vote by community volunteers they know personally. Being registered by someone they know increases the likelihood that a resident will vote. Drives within fixed communities, such as colleges, are particularly useful, as the reach a fairly concentrated population. High schools are another great target for registering voters because students are often currently taking courses that demonstrate the importance of American civil society and the political system, instilling an understanding of the process and a desire to vote. A voter registration toolkit can be found here. While this toolkit is written for non-profit organizations, the instructions can be followed by anyone!
In 2008, more than a million citizens were unable to vote due to the inconvenience of the process. A large number of these lost votes can be attributed to an inability to get to a polling station. Groups can work to alleviate this burden by offering free rides to polling stations. This is a particularly good idea for established organizations, such as churches, as people regularly come together and are able to organize a consistent program. Groups giving rides to the polls should strive to make the process as convenient as possible for voters. Websites such as ZimRide.com are useful for setting up group carpools and have been used in the past for Election Day rides. A state-by-state guide to registering as a poll worker can be found here.
Poll workers are a critical part of the election process. They oversee polls, register voters (in states and localities with same-day registration laws), explain voting procedure and provide ballots. The federal Election Assistance Commission has put together a comprehensive guide to Poll Working, including recruitment and training. It can be found here.
Voter hotlines provide callers with an opportunity to ask questions and receive information about voting policies and procedures on Election Day. Often staffed by lawyers and paralegals, voter hotlines document reported complaints and irregularities, such as long lines or other problems at polling stations. In addition to the lawyers and paralegals, voter hotlines can be operated by volunteers that provide voter assistance information, including polling station hours, locations and requirements. Election Protection is a national voter hotline that helps train grassroots volunteers that work at polling stations.