To many, voting rights can seem like a given. But for some, casting a vote is not as simple as mailing in a ballot or driving to the polls. A lack of transportation options; physical limitations or disabilities; language barriers; voter intimidation or discrimination; work constraints; family commitments; and other factors can make getting to the polls challenging. That’s why it’s equally important to give whatever we can—our time, voice, money or talents—to encourage a more equitable election process for all.
To make it easy, we’ve rounded up a few ways you can get involved this election season. This list isn’t exhaustive, but we hope it inspires you to get started.
Take Action in Person
Here are a few things you can consider doing in person.
Provide a lift
Because a lack of transportation can be a barrier to voting, offering people a ride to the polls can be a big help. A few ideas: Ask your neighbors whether they need to be driven to their polling place, or, depending on your comfort level, you can post your availability to give rides on social media. Additionally, you can organize a carpool with friends and offer to be the driver—or simply extend a ride to anyone you know who doesn’t have a vehicle. After all, helping even a single person submit their ballot means that one more voice is heard this election.
Offer your language skills
Between 2014 and 2018, about 21.5 percent of households spoke a language other than English at home, according to U.S. Census data. To help eliminate communication barriers, some counties with large populations of non-English speakers hire paid translators to help at polling locations. Some counties allow translators to work by phone, instead of in person.
Want to participate? Contact your local board of elections (often on a county or city’s website) to learn more about the level of language skills needed to qualify and how to get involved as a translator at the polls.
Become a poll worker
Poll workers are responsible for preparing a polling location, greeting voters, verifying registrants, issuing ballots and explaining voting procedures. But finding enough people to be poll workers can be challenging. In 2020, the U.S. faced a record shortage of poll workers. Some states continue to be short-staffed in 2022.
In Texas, for example, many poll workers failed to show up for the state’s February primary election despite state agencies having recruited enough people, says Sam Taylor, assistant secretary of state for communications at the office of the Texas Secretary of State.
Taylor says “there were a surprising number of no-shows,” regardless of political affiliation. “This led to a scramble to track down and assign poll workers to some polling locations in a few Texas counties, including Tarrant, Dallas and Harris counties.”
To help address shortages, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in 2020 dubbed Sept. 1 National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, in the hopes that greater awareness would encourage people to sign up for the role. An initiative called Power the Polls is working to reengage nearly 700,000 Americans who served as poll workers in 2020.
To become a poll worker, check with your local election office on how to apply. Qualifications and compensation vary by state.
Volunteer as a nonpartisan citizen observer
Nonpartisan citizen observers help monitor polling and check for compliance with election regulations. There’s no specific process for becoming a nonpartisan citizen observer and some states only allow partisan observers.
Check with your local election office for details on whether your state allows nonpartisan citizen observers and how to apply.
Give legal guidance
Election Protection, a nonpartisan voter protection coalition, sends volunteers to polling locations to answer voter questions, including how to contact their board of elections, how to resolve a complication with a ballot, ways to ensure their ballot counts and how to cast a provisional ballot. Volunteers must be legal professionals, such as a lawyer, to participate.
Unable to assist in person? Offer your expertise at Election Protection’s call center.
Take Action from Home
Here are a few ways to get involved if you can’t volunteer in person.
You don’t have to be a wordsmith to write a letter encouraging people to vote. A variety of organizations provide messaging, addresses and other materials (like a printable template) to make it easy to encourage people to vote. To participate, search online for groups that connect writers to unregistered voters during election season.
Ask three friends to vote
Rock the Vote suggests motivating three friends to vote, which might be the easiest way to act this election season.
If you feel inclined, you can get creative with how you ask your friends to vote. A few ideas: Make a megaphone announcement outside their window, deliver a cake decorated with important voting deadlines or attach a note to their favorite candy about why it’s important they cast their ballot.
Sign up for a daily phone or text banking shift
A variety of organizations look for volunteers to call and text eligible voters about voting deadlines and procedures. This is a great option for those who need to take action from home. Depending on the organization, you’ll be provided with a list of numbers as well as messaging to use.
If you have the ability to give money, consider donating to an organization that works to empower voters, advocates for fair elections or otherwise works to increase access to voting. You can search online for a national or local group focused on these outcomes.