With fewer than 45 days to go until the presidential election on Nov. 3, it’s more important than ever that people are ready to vote.
While get out the vote efforts have been going strong throughout 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent death launched fresh calls for every eligible American to cast their ballot in November. Politicians like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ilhan Omar urged voters to show up to the polls in order to protect Ginsburg’s legacy.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “most fervent wish” was to have her replacement appointed by the next President.
Honor her by mobilizing your neighbors to fight against hypocrisy, whether it’s through protesting, getting out the vote, or voting early — we need all hands on deck. https://t.co/dbO3Ry5eSY
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 21, 2020
But how can you encourage friends, relatives, and even strangers to vote during a pandemic, when we’re supposed to practice social distancing? And what about convincing someone from afar that their vote truly matters?
To start, you can mention that they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to make their voice heard. Crystal Carson, vice president of culture, communications, and media partnerships at When We All Vote, points to the fact that in 2016, nearly 100 million eligible voters in America did not vote.
Still, Jeanette Senecal, senior director of mission impact at the nonpartisan group League of Women Voters, is hopeful. The organization has an education fund that registers voters and provides election information via voter guides, candidate forums, and debates.
“We’ve seen the greatest interest in an election cycle in a very long time,” Senecal says. “We’ve seen massive increases in turnout throughout the primary season.”
Here’s how you can leverage that interest and get people excited to vote, while staying safe and healthy.
1. What to talk about
Before approaching anyone to talk about voting, you’ll want to prepare.
To start off the conversation you can begin with two simple questions: “Are you currently registered to vote or have you checked that your registration is up to date?”
Anyone can easily find their voter registration status with the League of Women Voters’ Education Fund’s vote 411 online tool, which redirects users to relevant websites in their state.
Also remind friends that even if they’re already registered, they should double check all pertinent details are still accurate. For example, if you have a friend or relative who recently got married and changed their legal name, they’ll probably appreciate a reminder to ensure their voter registration reflects their name change. They should also check it if they’ve moved or want to change their party affiliation. Each state has different rules on how to update voter registration.
You’ll also want the person you’re chatting with to think through how they’ll vote, whether that’s in person on election day, by mail, or in person before election day. They should note the associated deadlines for each, as well. They can use the League of Women Voters’ 411 tool to find all of this information.
If the person you’re speaking to is voting by mail, they should look into the terms used (either “absentee” or “voting by mail,”) whether they will be proactively sent a ballot by their state, or whether they’ll need to request one.
The recent changes to the USPS implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy have triggered mail delays, so if you need use the postal system to vote, do it ASAP so you leave enough time for your ballot to be counted.
“People are more likely to turn out to vote if they have thought through their election day plans,” explains Senecal.
2. Utilize online spaces
You don’t have to be an expert on voting to educate your family, friends, and people you don’t know on how to go about it. Instead, you can rely on websites to do the legwork for you.
Senecal recommends the following websites to keep up to date on voting in the 2020 election:
We Can Vote: A nonpartisan resource center that offers voting information for people in all 50 states, D.C., five U.S. territories, and Americans living abroad
Healthy Voting: Provides tips on how to vote safely during the COVID-19 pandemic for all 50 states, D.C., voting territories, and Americans living abroad
866 Our Vote: A hub for primary and general election dates as well as voting requirements and rules in each state
3. Activate your personal network
Even though you may be geographically far from your family and friends right now, you can reach out through a text, phone call, or social media to remind them to vote.
“You’re often the most important messenger to the people that you know,” says Senecal about getting people to vote. She suggests people reach out to those they have the closest relationships with as they’re more likely to respond.
When We All Vote also has a guide with tips to help you figure out who to prioritize within your network of friends, family members, and acquaintances.
You should also tailor your message. Bring up a specific issue that’s important to the person you’re speaking with. This can make your request more powerful as it can remind someone why they might want to vote, says Senecal.
But don’t wait to reach out, no matter how you choose to contact your network.
“If people are hoping to help their friends and family register to vote or check their registration information, voter registration deadlines start hitting in early October, so people should act now,” says Senecal.
4. Link up with organizations that inspire people to vote
You don’t have to go it alone. By joining an organization that already does GOTV work, you can learn from their experience and have people to troubleshoot with if you run into any problems. These groups can also help you motivate people outside of your personal network to vote.
“If you’re a person who doesn’t have as much experience doing GOTV work, working with a group or entity that has a lot of experience doing that can really help you be more successful,” says Senecal.
For example, When We All Vote’s texting team draws on thousands of volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday to text eligible voters, using the app OutVote. You can sign up to join the team here. You can also download the app yourself and either link up with organizations or text your contacts about voting on your own.
Both Senecal and Carson also recommend that people contact their local NAACP chapters. Many are looking for volunteers to increase voter turnout in the Black community.
You can also check out the nonpartisan organization Vote Forward, which helps you send letters to get people to register to vote. The organizations sends you addresses of prospective voters and you download a letter template where you can add your own inspiring handwritten personal message. You’ll need to apply participate and the application approval process takes about a day.
5. Door knock — if you feel comfortable and use caution
You can still inspire people to vote the old-fashioned way — in person. Though you should only do it if you and the people you live with are comfortable with the risks.
If you decide it’s safe, you’ll still want to take precautions. This means wearing personal protective equipment like a mask and gloves.
Some League of Women Voters chapters are also holding socially-distanced in-person events like voter registration drives. You can contact your local league here to see what they’re planning and how you can help.
Carson says When We All Vote is holding socially-distanced voter registration drives in nine cities across the country, which began on Sept. 19. You can learn more here and email [email protected] if you want to volunteer.
You can also check out the nonpartisan nonprofit HeadCount, which is looking for volunteers to register people to vote. It’s holding both in-person and virtual events.
SEE ALSO: How to help the USPS — and why it matters
No matter what method you employ, know that you’re making a difference.
“Voting is one of the ways for everybody to have a say in the direction of their community. It’s one way for us to take control of the decisions that are getting made,” says Senecal.