It’s a tense time in the U.S. when key issues are being threatened. Women’s healthcare, marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, gun laws, voting rights, and so much more are and will continue to be challenged, especially now that the Supreme Court could have a much stronger conservative bias than it has in decades. The upcoming midterm elections are critical. There’s potential to bring back checks and balances to the federal congressional branch and the many state and local elections where candidates are standing on shaky ground could be flipped. What do we need? Voters. When do we need them? Now.
The U.S. has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the developed world, with about 55 percent of voters showing up to vote in the last presidential election.
Research suggests that, while half of all Americans are certain that they’ll vote in the 2018 elections, only 28 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds are certain of voting. And while nearly 72 percent of young people are sitting out voting, 74 percent of seniors are heading to the polls. This means that our electorate as a whole isn’t being represented and the ideas and needs of young people will consistently not be heard. That missing 72 percent of young people could change so much and we have to find ways to encourage them to take advantage of this most essential right.
There is so much we could be doing on a larger scale to encourage voter turnout, and we should be advocating for those changes. Gerrymandering and voter suppression is REAL, especially in areas populated by people of color. But on an individual level, calling our representatives only does so much. We need to be working on a grassroots level as well.
Here are a few ways we can encourage voting in the midterms and make a habit of it after that…
Register to vote yourself
AND DO IT. It takes only two minutes to fill out this form and become a voting member of your community. You can learn all about voting at here including state-specific deadlines and even a new voter how-to video. Don’t know where to go to vote? You’ll likely receive it in the mail, but if not, check here.
Are you not going to be available to vote on election day itself due to travel, work, whatever? No problem. You can mail in your vote! Here’s how to do it.
Encourage your friends and family
If everyone reached out to their friends to make sure everyone was registered and ready to vote, we could make some real headway in those percentages opting out of voting. Plan to carpool to the polls together and check in via your group chat, email, social media, etc. to remind everyone to vote. Let them know that, even if they don’t normally care about politics, that every issue at stake will affect them and someone they know. People fought, died, and suffered for the right to vote and squandering it unacceptable.
You can even get FREE stuff for voting if you have an “I Voted” sticker like donuts at Krispy Kreme, coffee at 7-11, and iced tea at White Castle. Here are a few from 2016, which will likely be similar to the 2018 midterms. Keep an eye out on the news to see what could be free in your area.
Take advantage of carpool promotions
Car sharing company Lyft tweeted, “Over 15 million people cited transportation as their primary barrier to voting in the 2016 election — that’s why we’re introducing The Ride to Vote. Lyft will provide free and discounted rides to the polls.”
Across the country, they’re giving away 50% off promo codes and working with Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote, TurboVote and more to help distribute codes to those who need them. For underserved communities, they’re providing rides free of cost through partners like Voto Latino, local Urban League affiliates, and the National Federation of the Blind.
Pass this along to friends and family who might need help getting to the polls.
Volunteer to help get people registered
Organizations like Rock The Vote reach out into communities to register and encourage voting. You can help by signing up to volunteer or host a voting party.
Other organizations to support:
League of Women Voters
Bus Project (who making voting fun!)
Let America Vote
ACLU (click here to join their call team!)
Encourage employees to vote
If you’re a business owner or manager, you can encourage your employees to vote by giving time off on voting days (or flex time), passing out “I Voted” stickers, encouraging voting in groups for easier transportation, and even setting a goal for turnout.
Encourage students to vote
Are you a teacher or have access to students who will be of voting age? Pass along that civic knowledge and encourage them to vote. This is another opportunity to turn it into a more enjoyable experience with “I Voted” stickers, carpooling, and setting percentage goals. Civic education is woefully poor in this country and if we aren’t encouraging voting as soon as you’re legally able, they may never get into the habit at all.
Here’s a YouTube video by The VlogBrothers (who have a strong audience of young people) that can help young people figure out why and where to vote:
What are you doing to encourage voting? What tips did I miss?
Comments on 6 things you can do to help encourage voting (especially with those young voters!)
I’m a college student who does some volunteering with a nonprofit on my campus devoted to getting everyone registered to vote locally. Things of note: as a college student, you/they are likely eligible to vote in either their original location or the school’s location, if they’re different. I still vote in my original area for various (mostly selfish) personal reasons, but I am eligible to vote here. Check which states allow for permanent vote-by-mail without medical reasons – both the state I’m from and the state I attend college in do, and it’s great. Allows me to sit down and actually research the candidates with the ballot in front of me. Also, see about getting a polling place set up in your area. My college’s football stadium is a polling place, specifically for the purpose of making voting accessible to students. Other polling places in my area include the local mall (there’s some empty store space which has been donated for temporary polling use), the health department, and what appears to be every elementary school in the city. But all of these need people to staff them. Consider being one of those people.
The most important thing, though, is to get out there. There’s people out on the main walkway by the student union every day, with one organization or another, doing REGISTER TO VOTE stuff, and I imagine there will be until we pass the voter registration deadline for the general. I got mail in my school mailbox asking if I was registered to vote and giving a step-by-step guide to getting registered if I wasn’t. The training to do in-person registration isn’t very complicated (mine took about five minutes) and the group I’m with is very flexible about timing. If you can spend an hour or so standing outside with a clipboard asking people if they’re registered to vote, consider volunteering. It’s way easier than it sounds, and it was actually surprisingly enjoyable for me.