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Front Page » Want to Organize a Voter Registration Drive?

Want to Organize a Voter Registration Drive?

There was a time in our nation's history when many barriers limited citizen access to the voting booth. Today, after the hard work and sacrifice of so many Americans, all citizens are guaranteed the right to have their voices heard at the polls.

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
No right is more precious than our constitutional right to select the people we want to represent us in our city, county, state and national governments! Even so, millions of eligible citizens in the United States are not even registered to vote, yet. Some have never registered. Some registered a long time ago and never voted. Some citizens who think they are registered, may not actually still be registered - especially if they have changed their addresses or last names since the last time they voted.

You can help reinstate their rights and re-engage them in our democracy. Citizen action is the lifeblood of democracy! It's easier than you may think. You can run a voter registration drive! Don't let anybody tell you that you can't. You can. Here's how...

First, are you sure that you yourself are even registered? Before we go any further in discussing voter registration drives, let's make sure you are! If you have not registered yet, or if you just want to make sure that you are registered, it never hurts to register again. To register, go here. Once you get the form filled out, it's smart to hand carry your own completed form to your county election officer's office.

"Let us accept our own responsibility for the future." - President John F. Kennedy
Ready to help register other people?

Anybody can conduct a voter registration drive anywhere in the United States. You do NOT need special permission or special authorization. Registering people to vote is one of our rights. However, you do want to do it correctly so that the people you register will actually be able to vote on election day.

Here's some information and ideas that will help you get started in the right way:

1. Set up a time and place for your drive
2. Get your group or team together
3. Notify your county clerk or county election officer
4. Put the word out
5. Get your forms and supplies together
6. Get familiar with the rules
7. Set up your table, booth or car
8. Register people and have fun!
9. Follow-up by the necessary deadlines

1. Set up a time and place for your drive.

What day? Regarding calendar dates, you will can do your drive on any calendar day - but you can't do it within the last 2 weeks before an election. Why? Because all voter registration forms have to be received by the county clerk or state office no later than 14 days before an election. So, probably the latest you should schedule your drive is the middle of October, for the November election.

Where? Citizens find many creative places to do voter registration. Young adults have had great success by setting up their drives in nightclubs, of course, with the permission of the club owners. People of all ages have run successful drives at sporting events, grocery store parking lots, libraries, college campuses, hospital lobbies - just about any place people go. Some drives involve door to door canvassing. In that case, groups normally split up into pairs and each pair takes a different street or section of town.

If you want to have your drive in a commercial or private location, you will need to gain permission from the store owner or the property owner first. You could have a drive at your workplace, as long as you gain permission from your employer.

Generally, if you have your drive on public property or by walking around, you don't have to gain permission from anyone. You can stand on any city sidewalks or city parking lots and register people to vote, although, you may not be able to set up a table without permission. If you work at home, maybe you can set up a stand on the corner by the stop sign. You can walk the streets with a clipboard and sign people up. If you have an office, maybe you can register people out on the sidewalk in front of your building at lunch time.

What time? Well, you'll probably want to have it begin and end at times that are convenient for your group. Generally, you'll want to pick times when the most number of people will be frequenting your location.

2. Get your group or team together.

If you are a member of a club or organization, you may be able to ask around and see if any members will join you in a voter registration drive. If not, just ask family members and friends. It doesn't take many to have a successful drive. Two or three can manage a drive really well. Get everyone's commitment on the time and day. And, remember, even if you can't get anybody else to do this with you - you alone can still register people to vote. You, alone, can make a huge difference.

3. Notify your county clerk or county election officer.

You do NOT have to have permission from your county in order to run a drive! However, most county clerks will be helpful to you. They can give you supplies, such as voter registration forms. Sometimes they will even have posters or buttons too. It's also good to let your county clerk give you the rules that apply to registration drives (more about that later) as this will increase their comfort level. And, you will definitely want to verify the deadlines with your county clerk. Ask when you must have the completed voter registration forms turned into their office - very important! To find your county clerk, look in your phone book under county offices. If your county clerk does not do double-duty as the county election officer in your county, just ask your county clerk how to find the county election officer's office. Those of you that live in big cities may discover that your county has more convenient satellite offices where you can pick up the materials you need.

4. Put the word out.

If you are picking a location that a crowd will come to naturally, you may not think it necessary to hang fliers around town to announce your drive. However, many people will be pleased to know when or where you are planning to register voters so that they can plan to find you. So, if you've got a place and time, why not share it with others? For example, if you are doing a drive on a Saturday at your church parking lot, why not ask if you can promote it in the church bulletin? If you'll be at the local school on Saturday, why not use the parent phone tree? You may have increased activity when others find out how convenient you are making this. You may wish to place posters or fliers on bulletin boards at laundromats, grocery stores, student unions, dormitories, apartment pool areas, or even in the newspaper, if you can afford that.

But, please remember, voter registration does not require a complicated planning. You can keep it simple if you want to. For example, if you just wake up one morning and decide to head out and register people, you can! All you really need is the registration forms. You actually don't have to plan ahead. Don't let any complications stop you! Just do it!

5. Get your forms and supplies together.

Voter Registration Forms: Of course, you will need voter registration forms! There are several ways to get these forms. You will be able to get them from your county clerk or county election officer.

Fliers about Polling Places: It's a good idea to find out where the polling places are in your town (remember, they may have changed) and make up some fliers with the addresses and maybe maps. You may also be able to get this from the county clerk. Many people who are already registered will be asking you where their polling places are. Those people will not be able to vote if they don't know where to go. They will think you can tell them. Be prepared! If you can afford to make photocopies of the polling place lists that you got from your county clerk or county election officer, hand them out. Every vote counts!

Other items you will want to have: You will definitely want to have ball point pens, clipboards, etc. If you set up a booth or table somewhere, you will not really want to sit behind it as people may be too shy to approach. So, the clipboards come in handy because you can have volunteers with forms and pens walking out into the crowds. It's not necessary to hand out "vote" buttons, particularly if your group does not have the money to spring for them, see if your county office or local specialty stores have generic voter buttons for sale.

6. Get familiar with the rules.

It's extremely important to follow the rules when registering citizens to vote. The most important thing for you to know is that you cannot have any campaign materials, political party materials, or information about any candidates (including pins, buttons, or fliers) on you or on the table when you are registering voters. By law, voter registration must be strictly non-partisan. So here's some things to keep in mind:

  • Don't distribute material on particular candidates, political parties or issues as part of your voter registration drive. (Candidate forums are an effective and acceptable activity for citizens, but events about candidates be organized as a separate effort, separate from your voter registration activities!)
  • Don't offer suggestions or opinions on which party people should register for or for whom they should vote. Be very strict with yourself about this rule.
  • Remind volunteers and others in your group that the effort is nonpartisan.
  • Don't tell anybody how you will be voting, even if they ask!
  • If citizens have changed their addresses or names, they DO need to register again to vote.
  • Citizens who register, should:
    • be United States citizens
    • be residents of your state
    • be 18 years old or older
    • provide their drivers license number or social security number
    • sign the form with their own original signature
  • Registration forms must be received in the proper county office no later than 14 days prior to the election.

7. Set up your table, booth, car, or clipboard.

If you are setting up somewhere, you will want to set up an inviting table. Use your imagination. Red, white and blue are always good colors. Be creative with your table - decorate it with bunting, balloons, and/or signs encouraging people to "Register to Vote Here." (But remember: no campaign material of any type is allowed to be displayed on or around the table.) If you will be canvassing neighborhoods, you might just want to load your stuff in a backpack or car - or, to keep it simple, you can just grab a pen, your forms and a clipboard and go!

8. Register people and have fun!

Have fun! You are helping fellow citizens fulfill one of their most important civic responsibilities. So congratulations! This is a lot better than doing nothing, right? You are doing something extremely important!

9. Follow-up by the necessary deadlines

Don't forget to submit all the forms to the right county office by the deadline! You don't want to let anybody down by failing to turn in their forms for them by the proper dates. Normally, the deadline is two weeks prior to the actual election, and, normally, the proper place to turn the forms in is at your county clerk or county election officer's office. Be sure and turn the forms in to the right place by the right date!

"Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the most important actions you can take is to make sure the people of your community or neighborhood have a strong enough voice in the next election. Help more of them get registered!

1. Set up a time and place for your drive
2. Get your group or team together
3. Notify your county clerk or county election officer
4. Put the word out
5. Get your forms and supplies together
6. Get familiar with the rules
7. Set up your table, booth or car
8. Register people and have fun!
9. Follow-up by the necessary deadlines

The most important result of any grassroots action is - a strengthened democracy for all.


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