The importance of voting is clear. But for some, it’s not as simple as mailing in a ballot or driving to the polls. Language barriers, work constraints, family commitments and other factors can make casting a ballot challenging. Stress on our voting systems and the current global pandemic further complicate this year’s election. That’s why it’s equally important to give whatever we can—our time, voice, money or talents—to help encourage a more equitable polling process. To make it easy, we’ve rounded up a few ways you can get involved this election season. This list isn’t exhaustive, but we hope it inspires you to get started.
Take Action in Person
Here are a few things you can consider doing in person, so long as you feel comfortable. As always, please remember to follow CDC and state guidance for COVID-19 protocols and precautions.
Offer your language skills
Between 2014 and 2018, about 21.5 percent of families and people living together spoke a language other than English at home, according to U.S. Census data. To help eliminate communication barriers, some counties with large populations of non-English speakers hire paid translators to help at polling locations. Some counties allow translators to work by phone, instead of in person.
Want to participate? Contact your local board of elections to see whether they need your services and how to get involved.
Become a poll worker
Poll workers are responsible for preparing a polling location, greeting voters, verifying registrants, issuing ballots and explaining voting procedures, among other things. Finding enough people to be poll workers can be challenging in any election year, but this season is especially tough.
Typically, the people who sign up to be poll workers are in their 60s and retired, according to Pew Research Center analysis. But given general COVID-19 health concerns and the increased risk for serious complications that comes with older age, fewer people are volunteering this year, said Amanda Zoch, policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. This could present a significant challenge for Election Day, as in-person voting depends on the availability of poll workers, according to Zoch.
To help address the shortage, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission dubbed Sept. 1 National Poll Worker Recruitment Day to encourage people to sign up. Similarly, a new initiative called Power the Polls is working to recruit 250,000 Americans to sign up to be poll workers.
“They really are on the front lines of our elections, making sure the process runs smoothly and accurately,” Zoch said in an email to the Co-op Journal.
To participate and learn more about COVID-19 precautions for poll workers, check with your local election office on how to apply. Qualifications and compensation vary by state.
Volunteer as a nonpartisan citizen observer
Nonpartisan citizen observers help monitor polling and check for compliance with election regulations. There’s no specific process for becoming a nonpartisan citizen observer, Zoch said. Some states prohibit them.
Check with your local election office for details on whether your state allows nonpartisan citizen observers and how to apply.
Provide legal guidance
Election Protection, a nonpartisan voter protection coalition, sends volunteers to polling locations to answer voter questions, including how to contact their board of elections, how to resolve an issue with a ballot, ways to ensure their ballot counts and how to cast a provisional ballot. Volunteers must be legal professionals to participate.
Unable to assist in person? Offer your expertise at Election Protection’s call center.
Take Action From Home
Here are a few ways to get involved if you can’t volunteer in person due to health concerns or other factors.
Donate personal protective equipment
Considering offering your talents to create masks for poll workers. Where and how to donate can vary by county, but you can typically find that information by contacting the office of the secretary of state. Counties may have requirements for ensuring donated masks meet public health standards, so be sure to double–check with your local officials.
You don’t have to be good with words to write a letter encouraging people to vote. A variety of nonpartisan organizations provide messaging, addresses and other materials (like a printable template) to make it easy to encourage people to vote.
Organizations to consider:
- Postcards to Swing States provides volunteers with postcards, messaging and the addresses of eligible voters. You provide the stamps. Because the organization requires you to order a minimum of 200 postcards, you may want to recruit some friends to help with the writing.
- Vote Forward provides a printable template and addresses of eligible voters. You just have to print, sign and mail.
Ask three friends to vote
Rock the Vote suggests encouraging three friends to vote, which might be the easiest way to act this election season.
If you feel inclined, you can get creative with how you ask your friends to vote. A few ideas: Make a megaphone announcement outside their window, deliver a cake decorated with important voting deadlines or send them a text telling them why it’s important that they vote on or before November 3.
Sign up for a daily phone or text banking shift
A variety of organizations look for volunteers to call and text eligible voters about voting deadlines and procedures.
Organizations to consider:
If you have the ability to give money, consider donating to an organization that works to empower voters, advocates for fair elections or otherwise works to increase access to voting.
Organizations to consider:
Ahead of the November election, we’re outfitting our co-op community—employees and members alike—with the tools they need to participate. Check out more Gear Up to Vote coverage.