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Set an achievable numerical goal from the beginning, to inspire volunteers and serve as a guide for evaluation.
Become familiar with the federal, state and local laws that govern voter registration in your community. Voter registration practices – methods, deadlines, permissible sites, and the role of volunteers – differ from state to state and often vary among local jurisdictions in the same state. For more information, contact your Secretary of State or check out Project Vote's state guides on voter registration drives here.
Federal laws, such as the Voting Rights Act, Voting Access for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, and the Help America Vote Act protect the rights of minorities and other citizens to vote. Seek legal assistance if you believe that state or local registration practices violate citizens’ voting rights. Be sure to keep registration drives nonpartisan.
Make sure local elections officials know about your plans. In some places, you will need their help to get voter registration forms, to register voters at special sites or to train and deputize volunteer registrars. In other places, only official registrars may be allowed to register voters.
If you will need large numbers of forms or deputy registrars, inform elections officials as early as possible and in writing, so they can make necessary arrangements. If elections officials are uncooperative or do not provide assistance allowed by state election laws, and you have made a good-faith effort to work with them, seek legal assistance.
Coordinate your effort with other organizations planning voter registration drives, and share information about scheduled activities to avoid duplication. Take advantage of each organization’s special strengths.
Site selection and careful timing are critical elements of an effective registration drive. Use your resources efficiently by providing voter registration opportunities where there are large numbers of unregistered citizens who have the time to sign up.
Consider festivals, fairs, sporting events, schools, colleges, public transit stops, public assistance offices or downtowns and shopping centers. Select your site to make the best use of volunteers and schedule volunteers for peak attendance times.
Visit sites ahead of time, and select the most visible and accessible places to station volunteers. Consider the needs of disabled people. Get whatever permission is necessary to register at a privately owned site.
Impress volunteers with their responsibility to protect the right to vote of the citizens they are registering by filling out the forms correctly and returning them promptly to elections officials. Include training in techniques for approaching potential registrants and in messages that will motivate citizens to register.
“Sell” Voter Registration and Market Your Event
Use the media – editorials, articles, talk shows, PSAs – to promote voter registration. Provide information about registration deadlines and requirements. Advertise your voter registration drive, including the sites and times where voter registration will take place. Stage an event – a celebrity appearance, band concert or remote broadcast – to attract a crowd. Don’t be afraid to get out from behind a table and work the crowd.
Assign a volunteer or event leader to bring the following items to your event:
Keep Good Records
Volunteer registrars should keep track of the names, addresses and telephone numbers of everyone they register by using tally sheets or photo copying registration cards, where this is permissible by law. This information will help if forms are lost or there are other problems. Use this information to get the new registrants out to vote by doing such things as alerting them of candidate debates and reminding them of Election Day.
Show the world that your voter registration drive made a difference. Public officials and candidates will take note. Volunteers will feel positive about their hard work.
Reward volunteers. A well-timed expression of appreciation will help persuade your volunteers to work on the get-out-the-vote effort and to volunteer for the next registration drive.
Contact the new registrants – by email, phone or mail– and remind them to vote. Ask them to visit VOTE411.org to find their polling place and learn about what will be on their ballot. Let them know you're there to help if they need information or assistance.
Evaluate your efforts, and decide what worked best. Keep this information, with the names and phone numbers of your volunteers, for your organization’s next voter registration drive. Finally, share your challenges, as well as your success stories, with LWVUS! We want to support your important efforts.