If you're ineligible to vote in the upcoming election, whether it be due to not being 18 years old on Election Day or another reason, there are plenty of other ways you can support your chosen candidates leading up to Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Every voice counts, and even if you aren't filling out a ballot, you can still take actionable steps to inspire change. To get started, here are seven ways to participate in the 2020 election, even if you can't vote.
It may seem like there isn't a lot you can do to affect the election if you're unable to vote, but there are several ways you can inspire others to get to the polls, which can make a big impact. According to the academic publication The Conversation, at least 40% of eligible voters historically sit out elections at both national and local levels. Drumming up excitement among younger voters is a good place to start making change. According to the United States Census Bureau, only about 30% of 18-to-24 year olds voted in the 2018 midterm elections, and only 45% of that age group were even registered to vote that year. In 2016, 40% of 18-to-24 year-olds voted, and only 51% were registered. If you’re in a situation where you can’t vote this year, here are some ways to make a positive change.
1. Campaign for voter registration in your area or school.
Ask permission to set up a voter registration drive in a public location. Depending on where you're setting up, you'll need to ask the county, school, or the landlord for permission first. Once you've got the green light, print out voter registration forms and go where you’ve scheduled your registration drive. After you've completed the drive, you'll need to mail the voter forms to the right address, which are listed in the federal registration form from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's (EAC) website. You’ll need to be aware of the voter registration deadlines in your state so you can send out the forms in time. Registration deadlines for mailed-in forms vary by state anywhere from 7 days before the election to as many as 30 days before the election, and you can find each state’s guidelines from Vote.org. (Don’t forget — if you’re still underage but will turn 18 before Election Day, you can still register to vote in advance!)
If you're ready to mobilize, there are groups you can join which advocate for voting and young voter education. You can volunteer with Rock The Vote by filling out this form. Other groups with similar missions include Election Protection or a local voter outreach committee near you.
2. Discuss voting with the adults in your life.
If you know there are eligible voters in your family or your friend group who aren’t planning on voting, consider having a discussion with them about why they should head to the polls. Sometimes people don't vote because they're intimidated, they’re worried their vote won't make a difference, or they don't think the politicians on the ballot offer the sort of change they'd like to see. Despite these anxieties, you can explain the importance of voting on an issue-by-issue basis, and encourage them to vote in the 2020 election. If there are some big issues, like anti-racism, that you think are really important to to weigh in on with your vote, here’s how experts recommend bringing them up.
3. Share voter guides with friends and family.
Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda, a lecturer on women's studies and English at the University of Houston, wrote a piece The Conversation in January detailing the reasons people shared with him why they don't vote. They include a lack of knowledge on how to register and where to go to vote, as well as feeling they aren't informed enough on the issues and candidates.
Thankfully, it doesn't take much effort to share reputable voting guides with your friends and family members. For a comprehensive guide that focuses on the issues on the table in the election, you can share guides from Vote Smart or Know Your Vote. For first-time voters, check out guides from BallotReady and this one from the EAC. Still confused? We’ve got you covered with a guide to everything you should know about voting for the first time.
4. Donate to your chosen candidate's campaign.
If you have the means, you can donate to your preferred candidate on their official website. Beware of some age requirements, though, because anyone under 18 can’t contribute to Vice President Joe Biden’s or President Donald Trump’ presidential campaigns, which both campaign donation sites list as a requirement.
There may be instances where minors under the age of 18 can donate to other campaigns or races, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), so you can check with more local races on their specific rules.
5. Donate to nonprofits working for changes you want to see.
If you’re looking for reputable nonprofits advocating for causes you're passionate about, check out anti-racism organizations, groups fighting climate change, and orgs working to protect reproductive rights. If you’re not able to donate, you can look for volunteer opportunities with the same organizations. You can also look to places like Charity Navigator to see what other orgs you might want to support or join, to fight for change outside the electoral system
6. Volunteer to be a poll worker, or drive friends or family members to a polling location.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, many poll workers — the majority of whom are over age 61, and thus disproportionately at risk from coronavirus — may choose not to sign up to work the polls this year. And if poll places can’t be staffed, they might have to close, which makes it all the more important for young people to turn out to be poll workers this year. You can volunteer to be a poll worker in your area by checking your state's requirements from the EAC here. Some states require you to be a registered voter, and there may be minimum age, residency, and party affiliation requirements, so make sure to check if you qualify. Once you've confirmed you're eligible, you'll need to contact your local election office, which you can find on USA.gov, to sign up. Some states may allow you to sign up online so check your Secretary of State’s website before making a phone call to your election office.
Furthermore, if you know of someone who can't drive to the polls on Election Day, you can volunteer to take them there to vote. If you do this, make sure you and the person you’re driving take coronavirus safety precautions by both wearing face masks, opening the windows in your car for ventilation, and keeping as much distance as possible from one another. Also, make sure neither of you are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms. If you can't give them a ride, let them know about Lyft's Ride to Vote discount for the election, as well as Uber’s Election Day promos.
7. Sign up to make calls or texts to advocate for your political party.
If you want to support a local or national candidate, you can sign up to make calls or texts to advocate for their campaign. You can see if you’re eligible to take part in the Democratic party's Text Out The Vote, or through the GOP’s action center. You can also contact a local candidate you wish to support and see if they're accepting phone volunteers.
There are many ways to get involved in the election even if you’re unable to cast a ballot yourself, so check out these options to see what you can do leading up to the general election in November.