5 Ways to Encourage Your Community to Vote By Election Day (Without Leaving Your Couch)

published Oct 27, 2020
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The 2020 election cycle has been plenty chaotic—and  as the United States continues to battle rising coronavirus cases, the already-tough hurdles many people face for in-person voting have only been made more difficult. Getting out the vote is important—and so is making sure that voters and poll workers alike aren’t at risk of getting sick simply for performing their civic duty.

If you’ve been on social media, watched TV, or flipped through a newspaper for any length of time in the past few months, you’ve likely been inundated with messages to cast your vote on or before Nov. 3. By now, more than 860,000 Americans have already voted early (at this point in 2016, fewer than 10,000 had). More eligible Americans have also registered to vote in 2020 than ever before and all signs point to the ways Americans are engaged and ready to make their voices heard through their votes.

There’s still plenty more to do as we head toward the first Tuesday in November. Traditionally known as Election Day, think of Nov. 3 as more of a finish line: Many states have already started the voting process, which is to say that Election Day is the deadline for ballots, and therefore when the election ends. Whether or not you’ve already cast your ballot, there are still ways you can make a difference in your community (whether on a national or local level) all the while staying safe at home. 

Phone Bank for Candidates and Causes You Believe In

Aside from the presidency, there’s going to be a number of Senate seats up for re-election this cycle, and countless races for state-level seats, community positions, and county-wide propositions and measures. You can’t overstate the power of local politics, which affect your day-to-day life maybe more than you realize. Candidates for local elections also receive much less funding than presidential candidates, so it’s largely up to their communities to spread the word. Now would be a fantastic time to do some research into which council member is running for office, what propositions are up for a vote in your area, and see how you can get involved.

The most common act of volunteering is calling or texting other people in your community to advocate for a candidate or cause you support, otherwise known as phone banking. You can get started by reaching out to a campaign or organization you like to see if they are looking for more phone bankers (and chances are: they are!) You can do the work from the comfort of your home and someone from that campaign or organization will walk you through a script of how to talk to potential voters. It might be daunting to call or text a stranger, but a single conversation can make the difference in voter outreach. 

Translate Messages for Campaigns and Organizations

If you’re fluent in more than one language, your services could be a huge asset. Historically, voter outreach to non-English speaking communities has been incredibly low, leading to low turnout from those communities. The problem here isn’t a lack of interest in political engagement, but just a matter of not enough communication. If there’s a particular candidate you support, you can offer to translate their messaging and directly contact non-English speaking voters (through phone banking) or print translated fliers to leave up in neighborhoods. You can also volunteer to be a poll booth worker, where translation services are almost always needed. Which brings me to:

Talk to Friends and Family

Talking about politics is understandably tricky, and can be particularly intimidating if your views and beliefs differ from the ones held by the people you love. However, your strongest areas of influence are with those you have a personal relationship with. Studies show that people are more likely to engage with a friend, neighbor, parent, or someone else they’re familiar with. Talking about the election also doesn’t have to be messy. If you’re passionate about certain issues or candidates, you can respectfully have those conversations and point out why you’re voting the way you are. 

While you may not be able to sway everyone in your circle, it’s almost definitely worth a try. You might be pleasantly surprised by who is keeping an open mind to your point of view.

Support Mutual Aid Networks

Every election is undeniably important, but it’s worth remembering that political engagement doesn’t start or end with voting. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the power of mutual aid is often life-changing (and saving) for communities that haven’t been afforded the same privilege or resources as others. I have been donating to Chinatown Community for Equitable Development to support families and businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-Asian xenophobia that has been exacerbated as a result, and I plan to keep the work up long after the clock strikes midnight on Nov. 3. 

There are endless ways to throw your support behind local leaders, whether or not they’re on the ballot this year—and there’s never been a more prominent time to realize how much a grassroots movement can do for a community. Donating is an easy way to show your support from home, but if that isn’t a viable option for you, you can get in touch with leaders to find out what other services they’re in need of. Even spreading the word on your own social media feeds and through your friend groups can make a huge difference.

Plan Your Days and Weeks With Your GOTV Efforts in Mind

Just like you would schedule a meeting or a workout, plan ahead by baking get-out-the-vote efforts into your schedule. You probably won’t be able to do everything you want within a two-hour block—there are so many worthy causes to devote your time to, and you shouldn’t feel like it’s up to you alone to champion all of them. Pacing yourself and adhering to a schedule can help prevent burning out, and will allow you to make time for your own self-care, which is not to be neglected right now. This election cycle has been… a lot and experts are rightfully worried about the effects of election-related stress on our mental and physical healths. 

Remember the saying, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping someone else with theirs”? That’s definitely applicable here. As you plan your efforts over the next couple of days, practice little habits here and there to ensure you’re in a safe headspace before overextending yourself in service to others. Think of your me-time as a necessary recharge: You might find that you’re more able to focus and commit to the task at hand afterward.

Lately, I’ve been fighting the urge to read every bit of news out there late at night. Instead, I put my phone down and read a book (“The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” has been my go-to these days). Set reminders in your calendars and planners to go for a walk or stretch. Hydrate often. And of course: Get lots and lots of sleep. Your body (and brain) needs it!