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Want To Help People Vote? Here’s How

Oct. 5, 2020Call, text, canvas, advocate at your workplace, volunteer to fight voter suppression — here’s where to sign up.

Getting out the vote is important every election, but it’s a whole new ballgame this year, with a global pandemic that will make in-person voting extra difficult and mail-in voting extra chaotic. 


Meanwhile, the stakes are as high as ever when it comes to, well, pretty much every issue that continues to fester in our country: racism, climate change, growing inequality, that global pandemic we mentioned… The most important things you can do in the next month are make your own voting plan and spread the word so others do, too. Here are some ways you can make sure everyone gets an equal chance to exercise their voting rights.

Make Your Plan

The time to get intimately familiar with your state’s voting deadlines is yesterday. Depending on where you live, your first deadline of the election is likely almost here: some states require you to register to vote as early as October 4. Many states allow you to register in-person as late as election day, but this year is full of additional time-sensitive considerations since voting in person may be dangerous for many people. For one thing, you may want to consider an absentee ballot, especially if you are, or live with, an immune-compromised individual. If you’re interested in this route, you’ll want to find out the latest you can request a mail-in ballot, any restrictions, and the recommended date to mail your ballot back so that you’re not sweating over whether it gets counted. (Also consider a method for tracking your ballot to be 100 percent sure.) Early in-person voting is the second lowest-risk way to vote if you’re worried about Covid-19 exposure or just long lines on election day — and in many states it starts as early as October 6. Slate has published an extremely handy guide elaborating on every date and special consideration, state-by-state.  

Read more: The best thing you can do for the planet is vote for it. 


Advocate at Your Workplace

Of course, many people will still be voting on November 3! Whether or not that’s your plan, one concrete way to make sure that day runs smoothly where you live is to find out if your workplace has a good election day policy. In a perfect world, voting would be quick and easy everywhere, but in our world it can be an hours-long process depending on where you live. And in a perfect world, everyone’s employers would let them take all the time they need, but in our world, companies are not always held accountable to do so. The Time to Vote initiative hopes to change that, asking companies to ensure employees vote by giving them the day off or making it a no-meeting day. (And hey, Avocado happens to be one of the companies that made this pledge — paying employees while they vote and volunteer on Election Day.)


Phone, Text, or Canvas

So you’ve got a voting plan and you’ve confirmed that you’re registered. Time to make sure everyone else in your community gets on board, too. Grassroots, in-person conversations have been shown to be most effective in winning votes and upping voter turnout. Of course, it’s a little more awkward given the constraints of Covid-19, but in the month leading up to the election, there will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer as a canvasser — especially in swing states. 

Seed the Vote is recruiting volunteers to do in-person canvassing with local organizations, currently in the key states of Arizona and Pennsylvania. You can also sign up to volunteer with Sister District, which will connect you with campaigns in your area for canvassing and other actions. If you’re not so sure about in-person canvassing right now, there are still plenty of opportunities! You can find out about ways to contribute in your state or a swing state through Vote Save America; find local action campaigns like texting drives through Stand Up America; phone or text bank with Field Team 6; and sign up for phone banking shifts every Tuesday with the Human Rights Campaign. And those are just some national get-out-the-vote campaigns — local campaigns in your area will offer plenty more ways to get involved.


Volunteer at the Polls

Many states are experiencing a shortage of such volunteers due to Covid-19. One way to keep the wait time manageable on election day is volunteering to work your local polling station. Your job may include setting up a polling location, explaining the process to voters, checking their registration, and issuing materials. Power the Polls, an initiative to recruit poll workers, is a good place to start. Another way to contribute: poll workers will all need personal protective equipment, so see if nearby polling stations need donations. Find out who to contact here.

Read more: Why I’m Volunteering To Be a Poll Worker


Volunteer to Fight Voter Suppression

Voter suppression is expected to be worse than ever this year, compounding the effects of Covid-19 and deliberate suppression tactics, which tend to affect voters of color most. It can take all kinds of sneaky forms, like unnecessary voter requirements, inaccessible polls, and purging eligible voters from lists without their knowledge. What can citizens do about it, aside from donating to organizations taking legal actions against large-scale suppression tactics, like the ACLU? (Do that!) On an individual level, the first thing to do is get familiar with your voting rights and learn signs of voter suppression and intimidation. You can volunteer to be a sort of watchdog for such red flags with Protect the Vote, and keep the numbers they provide on hand in order to call if you encounter issues on voting day. And if you’re in a state with strict voter ID laws, Spread the Vote will connect you with your local chapter to help residents get proper identification. 

Erin Berger

By Erin Berger

 —  Erin Berger is a freelance writer and former culture editor at Outside magazine. She’s based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she skis, bikes, and hikes. She has a puppy named Henry.

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