It’s hard to overstate how important the upcoming U.S. presidential election is. Core issues like reproductive rights, climate change, healthcare, racial justice, immigration, and the ongoing global pandemic all hang in the balance. That’s why it’s critical that every eligible voter—especially the poor Black and Brown voters who are traditionally, systematically disenfranchised—is able to make their voice heard at the ballot box, in spite of the voter suppression we already know is happening across the country this election cycle.
While protecting voting rights is ultimately on the government, surprise surprise: Our elected officials aren’t totally nailing it! The ongoing attacks on voting rights can lead to feelings of despair, apathy, and helplessness, but helping others vote, if you’re able to do so, can do a lot to combat those feelings and minimize the number of votes that slip through the cracks. Here are five ways to go above and beyond to help other people vote.
Learn exactly how to vote in your state.
The easiest way to make a difference is to learn your local voting protocol. Become a resource that your family, friends, and all the people you went to high school with who still follow you on Instagram can count on. Figure out how to vote by mail in your state and how and where to vote in-person, and then follow your local board of elections closely for any changes or updates. Also be sure to look up your ballot online to make sure you understand what needs to be signed and where, since that’s where absentee voting mistakes tend to happen, so you can be a resource in that regard too.
While you might feel corny contributing to the barrage of “VOTE!” content online, and worry about sounding like a broken record in your day-to-day conversations, know that you could very well be leading by example. Studies have shown that social norms around voting—like, that it’s a good thing to do, and the bare minimum of political participation—can be a motivating factor in getting people to the polls. Do your research, then apply that positive peer pressure.
Phonebank or textbank your little heart out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely limited voter outreach campaigns, due to the limits it places on volunteers who would normally speak to potential voters face-to-face. We still don’t know what kind of impact this lack of IRL contact will have on the election. But the good news is, now you can do your part to mobilize people for your candidate of choice without having to change out of your work-from-home sweatsuit.
If you’re not exactly in the mood to list off the good qualities and espouse the policies of a presidential candidate you feel “meh” about, you can always volunteer to phonebank or textbank for a non-partisan organization to help mobilize people to show up prepared to vote in the first place.
If you see something, say something (on social media).
Whether you notice a piece of misinformation floating around your social media sphere or you’re just trapped in an early voting line that takes hours to clear, flagging discrepancies or obstacles to voting is a great, low-lift way to contribute to the election process. Voter rights and watchdog groups are monitoring social media for this kind of content, both to keep voters informed of what’s happening on the ground, and to let them know what information is worth totally discounting.
Some groups, like Common Cause’s Election Protection program, are actively soliciting volunteers to scour social media for these kinds of tidbits. If you’re willing to commit some time and research skills to the cause, this is another great way to get extra involved.
Even social media companies understand how influential and important their platforms will be during this election, which is why Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and even Pinterest have introduced new policies to flag election misinformation from now until the polls close. Social media played a demonstrable role in the 2016 election, and because we know that for many people it’s both a news source and a major source of social contact, it’s worth your time to correct misinformation spreading there.
Lend a hand in the ballot curing process.
Another, more niche way to help ensure every voter who wants a say has one is to assist in the ballot cure process. By reaching out to voters who may have missed a signature on a mail-in ballot, or made some other easily fixable error, volunteers can fill in the gaps in a process that’s brand-new for many of the states offering it.
According to an NPR report, first-time mail voters are more likely to make disqualifying errors on their ballots, and young people and non-white voters are more likely to have their ballots disqualified, too. In fact, 550,000 ballots have already been rejected in the U.S., which adds a serious sense of urgency to the need to cure as many of those as possible.
Volunteer to work the polls—or to monitor them.
If you’re not a member of a group that’s particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, consider volunteering to serve as a poll worker at your local election site. Given that poll workers tend to be in the 60 and older age group, now is the time to grab the torch and help ensure your community members have the smoothest possible voting experience. Poll workers give instructions, answer questions, test voting machines, and hand out stickers—and make a cute little stipend while they’re at it! What’s not to love?
If being a poll worker isn’t quite your speed, volunteering as a poll monitor with one of the election protection groups above is a good way to keep an eye out for voter intimidation (which the president is actively stoking, by the way) and other Election Day obstacles from the confines of your car.
Civic duty might sound cliche, but if the confluence of a global pandemic, civil uprising, record unemployment rates, a looming housing crisis, and climate catastrophe that we experienced in 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that we’re all in this together, and we all need to do our part to help each other out. Election Day 2020 is just another day in our current reality, which demands that we do as much as we can to take care of each other.
Follow Katie Way on Twitter.