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Caitlin Kilgore

Updated: 11/15/2021

Everything you want — and need — to know about getting involved.

Voting has always been an important civic duty, but this year that right — and power — has taken on increased urgency. We've experienced a global health crisis, economic hardship and historic unrest: Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from COVID-19, more than 40 million have lost their jobs and the Black Lives Matter movement has illuminated the true depth of racial injustice in this country.

So what's standing between those atrocities and even worse outlook next year? An effective leader.

That's why on November 3 (or before, if you intend to vote by mail), it is critical than you cast your ballot — and to engage friends, family, even strangers to do their part too. Below are actions you can take right now to make a difference in the presidential election. We'll continue to add to this list, so check back frequently!

Create a Plan to Vote

The U.S. has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout among all developed nations. The reason? While it might sound simple, voting in this country can get fairly complicated — from finding polling stations to figuring out when local and state elections happen — and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's even more complex.

Your first course of action: Make a voting plan ahead of time. Research shows that when voters make a plan to vote, they're more likely to follow through. Don’t wait until the last minute and risk running into any problems that would hinder or worse, prevent, you from voting.

Plus, many states and counties are creating more options for safe ballot drop-off locations. For example, if you're in New York state, you can drop off your completed ballot at your local county board of elections office now or at any early voting site in your county between October 24 and November 1.

Need some guidance in getting started? Here's your own personal get-out-and-vote checklist:

  • Check your voter registration. This should take all of two minutes, max. If you're not, register to vote, or update your registration if you’ve changed your name or moved.
  • Check Vote411 for state-by-state election rules and any changes due to COVID-19.
  • Learn about early voting and mail-in ballot options in your state.
  • If you're voting by mail, register as soon as possible to request your mail-in ballot. And don't worry: While Trump's efforts to denounce mail-in voting as fraudulent have made some people wary of mail-in ballots, election experts maintain that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that it is secure and reliable. (Read more from the Bipartisan Policy Center here.)
  • Research your candidates' stands on issues that matter to you. Here's a helpful guide for learning about and evaluating candidates.

Voting by mail?

  • Follow all instructions on your mail-in ballot carefully.
  • Sign, seal and return your ballot as soon as you can — via the mail or a designated drop-off location. (Some states provide secure drop boxes in communities or at election offices.)
  • If mailing, be sure to add the correct postage.
  • Most states automatically track your ballot so you can be sure it arrives safely — see the list here and check your ballot for a barcode you can scan to keep track.

​​​Voting in person? (Even if you've requested a mail-in ballot, you can still vote in person if you prefer, and haven't mailed it in.)

  • Check Vote411 to find your polling place. It might have changed this year as election officials try to find bigger spaces to allow for social distancing (think sports arenas and concert halls).
  • Make a plan for how and when you will get there — mark it in your calendar!
  • Check your polling location's hours to be sure they’re open.
  • Check if your state requires an ID to vote — and if so, remember to bring yours.
  • Prepare to be at your polling place for a long time: pack snacks, wear comfortable shoes and prepare for potentially bad weather.
  • Bring supplies to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 when voting, like a mask and hand sanitizer. Find more tips from the CDC for voting safely here.

If you, or someone you know is a first time voter, look over this first-time voter checklist. For more election-season advice, check out 100 Ways to Get Ready for Election Day or this article from the New York Times.

Get Others to Vote

In addition to making your own voting plan, it's also important to encourage friends and family to do the same! One easy way: Share your plan to vote on social media. Experts say this kind of social pressure can not only keep you accountable, but also reminds your friends and followers to make — and share —their voting plan, too.

Some other effective ways to help get out the vote include:

  • Phone bank from home with Turnout2020.
  • Write letters to voters in swing states with VoteForward.
  • Sign up to volunteer as a poll worker. Check your state's board of elections website for details.
  • Host a voter registration event. Rock the Vote offers registration toolkits (including information on hosting virtual or in-person events, QR codes and graphic assets) to help you register people to vote.
  • Want to make voting feel like a party? Rock the Vote offers tons of tips to host your own VoteFest during early voting or on Election Day — for instance, making a weekend plan to vote and then brunch with friends, or organizing a lunchtime carpool to the polls with co-workers.
  • Focus on getting out the vote in key Midwest states with 3 States 1 Mission, which provides phone and text banking training and events aimed at voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.
  • Volunteer with Rock The Vote: From video editing to graphic design or even just texting voters, put your skills to good use to help engage voters.
  • Knock on neighbors' doors and engage them in conversation about voting.
  • Find local groups to join through Facebook’s Discover feature, or check out the “Join a Movement” tab on Meetup.com.

Other Simple Ways to Help:

  • If you’re a business owner, give your employees time off to vote.
  • Host a debate watch party over Zoom with friends.
  • Order a yard sign or bumper sticker for a campaign you support.
  • Donate to campaigns and candidates you support.
  • If you see or hear of a problem with voting in your area, call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE.
  • Buy a voting shirt or mask and wear it with pride.
  • Get to know your neighbors of different faiths, ages, backgrounds or race.
  • Help support vulnerable neighbors — if you live near someone elderly or with a disability, check in with them to see if they need help voting.
  • Reach out to a local senior center to see if their residents are registered to vote or if they need help safely participating in the upcoming election.

Support Political Organizations

Voting is not the final destination, but rather one piece of a much larger puzzle. A number of organizations work hard year-round (election or not) to serve their communities and advocate for change. Consider donating to these organizations, or volunteering your time.

Organizations in Pivotal Swing States:

These organizations are in crucial battleground states. To find additional groups in each state, check out this list.

Want to support multiple organizations at once? When you sign up with Defeat By Tweet, every time Trump sends a Tweet, a donation of your choosing (up to a pre-selected amount) will go to Black-led organizations working to defeat Trump in nine key swing states.

Other National Groups to Support:

  • Color of Change: the nation’s largest online racial justice organization working to empower and mobilize Black voters
  • Voting While Black: works to create a positive space for for Black voters to learn about issues affecting their communities
  • Native Organizers Alliance (NOA): a non-partisan organization that works to organize Native Americans and create social change that strengthens traditional culture and practices
  • Mijente: a network of Latinx and Chicanx people who advocate for racial, economic, gender and climate justice
  • Justice is Global: works to unify progressive organizations to campaign together
  • AAPIs for Civic Empowerment: unites Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to be civically active and fight for their communities to be heard and valued
  • 18 Million Rising: brings Asian Americans and allies together to fight for justice and mobilize the voices of their 120,000+ members
  • Supermajority: unites women of all ages, races and backgrounds to fight for gender equality
  • League of Women Voters: a non-partisan organization that promotes active participation in government by educating about advocacy and public policy

Read More

Vote Like Your Health Depends On It (Because It Does)

5 health-related policy issues to consider when you head to the polls this November

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When, Where & How to Vote

Every state has different dates and guidelines. Check out your state’s individual voting info here.

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Anti-Racism Resources

Actively acquiring knowledge and checking your own biases is a crucial starting point for helping to end systemic racial and social injustice.