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TAKE THE VOTER ENGAGEMENT CHALLENGE
Completing a voter engagement plan for your agency will help you assess how best to incorporate voter registration, education, and mobilization into your agency's work.
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Get PreparedBelow are some reasons that organizations have undertaken voter engagment projects. Engage residents in civic participation and help them become familiar with how decisions of elected officials affect their lives. Elevate the issue of homelessness and housing scarcity in public debate. Educate elected officials on low income housing issues and on how their decisions affect residents. Build influential relationships with elected officials. Help develop residents’ leadership skills. Assist residents in meeting community service requirements, if applicable. Earn positive press for your program or project.
Be Nonpartisan501(c)(3) organizations can, and should, engage in nonpartisan election-related activity, including voter registration, education, and mobilization. 501(c)(3)s cannot in any way support or oppose particular candidates. For detailed information on these issues: Contact the Office of the Secretary of State or Board of Elections in your state to learn your state’s rules for voter registration drives. Take a look at the Permissible Activities Checklist put together by Nonprofit VOTE at: www.nonprofitvote.org/documents/2017/04/nonpartisan-election-activities-501c3-nonprofits.pdf. Visit the League of Women Voters at www.vote411.org for the latest information on voting in your state. Read and review Nonprofits, Voting & Elections produced by Nonprofit VOTE at: http://www.nonprofitvote.org/nonprofits-voting-elections-onlinedocuments/2010/11/nonprofits-voting-and-elections.pdf.
Register VotersSetting Goals for Registering Voters What percentage of your clients will you register? What number? Will your agency also register other low income members of the community, beyond those served by your programs? How many weeks do you have until the deadline to register voters? How many people must you register on average per week to meet your goal? Assigning Responsibilities What staff person will ultimately be responsible for meeting registration goals? What resident leaders will have responsibility for meeting registration goals? Preparing To Register Voters Your local Board of Elections can be a valuable source of information as you plan to register clients to vote. You will want to check in with them to: Learn the registration deadline for the general election in your state. Ask whether anyone can register voters in your state, or whether a person must first become deputized or meet other requirements. Request the voter rolls for your locality. There may be a small charge for this, but it’s important; you will use this list to determine which of your residents and clients are already registered, and which need to change their official voting address. Request enough voter registration forms to meet your registration goals. Are there special requirements someone must meet before registering voters? Who will obtain the county voter list and pick up the voter registration forms? REGISTRATION CHECKLIST For each section, check those ways in which your agency will register voters. In the space after the activity, list the staff or resident(s) who will carry out the activity, and the timeframe for carrying it out. Fitting Voter Registration Into Your Agency’s Regular Contact With Residents Add voter registration to the client intake process. Directly ask people to register and assist them in completing the form; don’t just provide the form. Register clients when they come in to receive your services. Train all staff and volunteers who work directly with clients to be able to answer questions and assist with registration forms. Add a voter registration component to all job training, computer skills, financial literacy, or other classes offered by your agency. Planning Specific Voter Registration Activities Hold a social or other event at which voter registration is an activity. Host an event for National Voter Registration Day (September 25, 2018), http://nationalvoterregistrationday.org Organizing A Door-To-Door Campaign Train residents, staff, and other volunteers who are already registered to go door-to-door to register low income renters. Use the county voter list to determine who needs to be registered and whose registration needs to be updated. Appoint residents as building captains, floor captains, etc. Ensure they are trained on the rules in your state, and make them responsible for registration and turnout where they live. For locked buildings where you have not recruited a resident captain, approach landlords to ask if they will allow door-to-door registration or a registration table in the lobby. Consider offering public recognition to those who register the most new voters or the highest percentage of their area. Reaching Out To the Community Have your registrars reach out into the community to register other low income, homeless or underrepresented people. Provide a voter registration and information table at neighborhood events. Make sure everyone on the staff and board is registered! Staff or volunteer responsible for organizing these activities: KEEPING RECORDS Keeping records of the people you register to vote helps both with determining whether you have met your registration goals and with planning Get Out The Vote activities. NLIHC has a sample database that you can use for recordkeeping at the end of this document. Where allowable by law, one easy way to gather the information for your list is to collect voter registration forms from new registrants, then photocopy the forms or portions of forms before mailing them in. You can also have new registrants fill out a two-part pledge card. They will keep the half of the card that reminds them of their pledge to vote; you will keep the half with their contact information. Who will be responsible for keeping records of who becomes registered to vote?
Educate Voters & CandidatesEDUCATING CLIENTS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS Which staff person will ultimately be responsible for meeting education goals? Which resident leaders will have responsibility for meeting education goals? EDUCATION CHECKLIST For each following section, check those ways in which your agency will educate voters and candidates. Educating Renters on Voting and Their Rights As Voters Educate clients and low income renters on new identification requirements for voter registration and voting in your state. Obtain sample ballots from your Board of Elections or County Clerk’s and distribute to residents. Arrange for someone from your Board of Elections or County Clerk’s office to come to your agency to provide a demonstration of your county’s voting machines and explain people’s rights as voters. Host a discussion on the importance of voting and what can be gained by increasing the percentage of voters who are low income renters and allies. Encourage residents to sign up with the Board of Elections as poll workers. Educating Voters on the Issues Obtain materials on current federal affordable housing issues from NLIHC at http://nlihc.org/issues. Host a discussion to clarify who your community’s elected officials are, and the connection between what those officials do and your clients’ lives. Arrange for clients to attend or watch a candidate debate or public forum. Ask all candidates to complete a candidate questionnaire and distribute their answers. Publish the answers on your website, if possible. For information on putting together a questionnaire or hosting a forum, see: http://bit.ly/1gD2hdR. Educating Candidates Include information on your agency when sending candidates your questionnaire. Encourage clients to write letters to the editor explaining why affordable housing is an important issue for them as they consider how they will vote. Prepare low income voters for asking questions at candidate forums or town hall events. Arrange for each candidate for a particular office to take a tour of your agency and speak with clients. PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO VOTE Some low income people, including people experiencing homelessness and ex-offenders, are at a greater risk of being turned away from the polls on Election Day, or otherwise being disenfranchised. Find information on protecting people’s rights to vote through the Fair Elections Legal Network at www.fairelectionsnetwork.com/state-guides. You may also want to contact a local attorney who is experienced in voter protection. He or she can help identify potential issues locally, and can also be available on Election Day in case anyone experiences problems voting. Who will be responsible for ensuring the rights of the people you work with are protected on Election Day?
Mobilize VotersSetting Goals for Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) What is the total number of people your agency plans to register to vote (from page 2)? How many additional clients are already registered (from the voter list you obtained from your county’s Board of Elections)? What is your total number of potential voters (A+B)? What percentage of these people would you like to see vote on Election Day? What is the total number of people you would like to see vote on Election Day? Reminding People To Vote Which staff person will ultimately be responsible for meeting mobilization goals? Which resident leaders will have responsibility for meeting mobilization goals? PLANNING FOR ABSENTEE BALLOTS AND EARLY VOTING In all states, absentee ballots can be requested by residents who are unable to get to the polls on Election Day. In some states, there is no reason required for absentee voting, and all voters have the option to vote by absentee ballot or to vote before Election Day. Providing your clients with absentee ballot request forms or helping them to take advantage of early voting if available is a great way to increase voter turnout. Voting by absentee ballots generally involves two steps. First, clients fill out forms requesting their ballots. Once they receive their ballots, clients fill them out and return them. Check with your county’s Board of Elections on each of the following questions: What is the deadline in your state for requesting absentee ballots? When must ballots be returned to the county? Does your state allow for no-excuse absentee ballots (residents may vote absentee even if they would be able to go to the polls on Election Day)? Does your state allow for early voting? Who will be responsible for coordinating absentee ballots and early voting? MOBILIZATION CHECKLIST For each following section, check those ways in which your agency will mobilize voters and candidates. The Months and Weeks Before Election Day If time allows, request an updated list of registered voters from your Board of Elections to ensure the voters you registered are included. Investigate the possibility of adding a polling place at your agency. Download and print GOTV materials, including posters, from www.nonprofitvote.org. Host voting-related events on the first Tuesday of the month to get residents accustomed to participating in civic engagement activities on that day. Make your first contact with each voter in your database. Call them, thank them for registering, and remind them to vote. Plan for Election Day: Recruit residents or other volunteers who will spend Election Day going door-to-door to Get Out The Vote. Prepare captains to turn out all registered people on their floor or in their building, etc. Once the deadline for registering new voters has passed, obtain an updated voter registration list from your county. Check against your database and prepare a final list of voters to be mobilized. One To Two Weeks Before Election Day Make your second contact with voters in your database. Call them, remind them to vote on Election Day, and provide them with their polling place. Ask whether each will need a ride to the polls. Continue to plan for Election Day: Hold a training session for Election Day volunteers. From your database, print lists of all of your registered clients whose doors will be knocked on when Election Day comes. Print in groups of 20-30 people, based on geography and the number of Election Day volunteers. Arrange to provide rides to the polls for those who need them. Plan to provide lunch for your Election Day volunteers. Plan a party for after the polls close! The Day Before Election Day Make your third contact with each voter in your database. Call and ask them to commit to vote the following day. Remind them of the location of their polling place and the times that polls will be open. Election Day Have volunteers with lists of registered residents knock on the doors of everyone on their list, crossing off the names of those who have voted. If a voter is not home, leave a pre-printed note on the door. Call or knock again until everyone has voted, or until the polls are closed. Provide rides to the polls for residents who need them. Celebrate! Host a party for voters and volunteers. Watch the election results. Post-Election Day Thank voters and volunteers, and share your success stories. Evaluate your program and plan your next project. Continue with registration and education activities. Use your new influence by meeting with newly elected officials and discussing your priority issues. Consider if there are staff or residents who should be encouraged to run for office.
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