The first step is for you to register to vote. Along with your state’s election information page, there’s Rock the Vote which will help you through the process wherever you live. You can also usually find registration forms in post offices and libraries. You can also use Rock the Vote’s site to check your current registration status.
Once you’ve registered—or made sure that your registration is still current—share what you did on social media, by emailing or texting friends and family, and telling folks in face-to-face conversation. When that checkout clerk at the grocery store says “How ya doin’?” say, “Great! Busy day, but I did manage to fit in registering to vote!”
Next, start getting strangers and acquaintances registered. You can do this in public places—especially anywhere that people will be waiting in line—as well as by making sure shared private spaces you visit (like the break room at work) have some voter registration forms available.
If you can’t join up with an organization with a voter registration drive already in progress, you can start your own. You’ll want to gather:
- voter registration forms for your state (ask at your post office for a stack, or if they don’t have enough to spare, contact your local Department of Elections and ask how to make a bulk order for them)
- inexpensive pens
- and, if doing your drive out on the street, a couple clipboards (people are more likely to fill the form in now than if they walk away with it “to do later”)
Before registering people, be sure you’ve read the form and understand it, particularly the rules relating to someone assisting the voter with their registration. You are obligating yourself to turn in their registration, without alteration, even if you don’t agree with their political beliefs. Find your state’s information on voter registration drives and be sure you’ve read it through entirely so that yours is effective and legal. (Here’s California’s guide to voter registration drives, for example.)
It’s also a good idea to study up on what identification people may need to bring with them when they vote in your state; you may be asked about it or want to let people know if there are additional steps they’ll need to do to be ready to vote. VoteRiders has details on what ID is required in each state.
When talking to people, be upbeat. A loud, but friendly, “Are you registered to vote?” and eye contact will generate more results than waiting for them to approach you.
If you want to draw more attention and encourage people to immediately fill in the form, have a table, even just an ironing board, with signs hanging from it saying “Register to vote here”. (It’s a good idea to bring extra masking tape and rubber bands to keep signs and forms under control if the weather is breezy.)
If it’s an option on your state’s form, you may wish to encourage people to check the box to always have an absentee ballot sent; this makes voting by mail easy. When the voter gets to choose their most convenient day to fill out the ballot, they’re more likely to get their vote in.
Getting out the vote matters for all elections. Voter turnout drops dramatically in non-presidential election years, but local and state elections are just as important. Plus local and state offices are often stepping stones to national office.
Learn more on FairVote’s Voter Turnout overview.