Voting Rights Toolkit

Our Voting Rights Toolkit will help you mobilize people in your state to pass key reforms that expand access to voting rights, modernize voting, and protect your voice in state and local government. These reforms are part of a comprehensive package of legislation that outlines our vision for a strong democracy. With the toolkit, you can join activists working at the grassroots level in states across the country to demand that our elected officials deliver on the promise of democracy. For each reform, the Voting Rights Toolkit includes: 

  • Stories of successful campaigns and how they used social media, local press, actions, and more to build grassroots power and create change;
  • Message guides and sample tweets, op-eds, and press releases to help you drive a compelling narrative about voting rights in your state;
  • Materials for taking meaningful action, such as sample action alerts, petitions, sign-on letters, and more.

We're here to help! If you're mobilizing for voting rights in your state, tell us about your work, and remember to follow us on twitter and like us on facebook so we can amplify your campaign.

 

Modernizing Elections

The 2008 election saw 131 million people vote, a cresting tide of participation powered by a diverse set of voters including young people, African-Americans, and Democrats energized by the Obama candidacy.  Since that election, there have been efforts to structurally limit voting. In 2011 alone, more that 180 bills to restrict voting were introduced in 41 states.  When the protections of the Voting Rights Act were further diminished by the Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, even more states moved to pass laws restricting access to the ballot box.

During the summer of 2015, Democracy Initiative organizations and allies came together to reimagine voting rights. Not only did we want to defend against these attacks on our democracy; we need a democracy for the 21st century. And we need citizens like you to help lead the offensive and take action to protect and expand the vote.

We can’t wait for Congress to restore the VRA. We’re going state by state and county by county to fight for modern elections in our communities that include everyone.  We created a model bill that had the best of everything in it, a “gold standard” for what voting should look like based on simple ideas. The reforms in our model bill make up a vision of the equal access we need to make sure all of our voices are equal and can be heard.

  • Registration: Research shows that registering to vote is the largest barrier to participating in the political process. Reforms like same day and automatic voter registration will help people in your state register to vote more easily.
  • Voting: Once people have registered to vote, we need to make voting itself easier. For example, early voting will help working families find time to vote, and no excuse absentee ballots will allow people like senior citizens to vote from home, rather than a polling station.
  • Transparency: We need to make sure people know where and how to vote. Transparency requires the state to keep people updated on changes to the voting process; for example, if the location of your local polling station changes, your state would have to tell you about it right away.
  • Language Assistance Requirements: The state needs to provide people who speak a language other than English with services or translated documents to help them with the voting process.

States across the country are passing these reforms because activists like you are mobilizing to demand equal access to the ballot box. The issues that matter in your community should be as important to your government as they are to you, and if we come together, we can make sure our voices are front and center in our political process.

To learn more about these reforms, download our fact sheet on the model bill here.

 

 

 

We're here to help!

In many states, activists and advocates are already working on the reforms in the toolkit, and they need your help! Before you take action for voting rights in your state, check out the organizations listed below to learn more about the great work happening right now in states to protect the right to vote:

You can also contact us or reach out via twitter or facebook to let us know that you want to take action, and we’ll help connect you with people in your state who can help!

 

 

Automatic Voter Registration

Automatic voter registration is a program that allows the government to register eligible voters to vote. The government uploads information on eligible voters obtained through agencies like the Department of Motor Vehicles and then registers them to vote, allowing them to opt out of the process if they choose.

Since Oregon’s automatic registration law passed in March of 2015, four other states have passed or implemented similar programs – California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut - and on July 14, 2016, members of Congress introduced automatic voter registration bills in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Automatic voter registration can include millions of new voters in our political process. It’s an exciting step toward a democracy that includes everyone.

  • To learn more about successful campaigns to pass automatic voter registration, click here!
  • Check out our guides to taking action and getting the word out to learn how you can help pass automatic voter registration in your state.

Download our fact sheet on automatic voter registration here.

 

 

 

Automatic Voter Registration in States

Oregon

In March 2015, Oregon became the first state to automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they request or renew a driver’s license through the DMV. The Secretary of State's office sends new registrants a card telling them they will be added to the voter rolls if they do not opt out within 21 days. The burden of registration shifts from the individual to the state, resulting in a total of 206,554 new voters joining the rolls after being automatically added during the first seven months following the program's launch in January 2016.

Learn more about Oregon's New Motor Voter Act here.

California

California became the second state to pass AVR legislation. A key difference involves the timing of the “opt-out” choice. Unlike Oregon’s law, which has no questions about voter registration at the DMV, in California, people will be asked to affirm their eligibility to vote and, if they choose, opt out of registering at that time. Information about anyone who does not opt out of registration will transfer eletronically from the DMV to the Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State then verifies new voters' citizenship and adds them to the voter rolls. California estimates that the state has 6.6 million eligible but unregistered voters.

Connecticut

In May 2016, Connecticut became the fifth state to institute automatic voter registration, although unlike Oregon, California, West Virginia, and Vermont, Connecticut will implement its AVR program administratively, rather than passing a law. Secretary of State Denise Merrill worked with Connecticut's DMV to establish a system for sharing data to register new voters when they interact with the DMV. Sec. Merrill estimates that the system will add approximately 400,000 new voters to the voting rolls. 

West Virginia

In West Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature, lawmakers from both sides created a compromise bill that combined a moderate voter-ID law that accepts student IDs, bank statements, health insurance cards, and utility bills favored by Republicans with an AVR system proposed by Democrats. The legislation was signed into law in April 2016.

Vermont

Just two weeks after West Virginia, Vermont became the fourth state to automatically register voters who apply for a driver’s license or state ID. The legislation passed with near unanimous support through the Vermont House and Senate. While the law will not take effect until after the 2016 elections, state officials estimate that it could add 30,000 to 50,000 voters to the state’s rolls.

Get the Word Out

A successful campaign for automatic voter registration educates and engages people in your community. Use:

Social Media: Check out these examples from the Bus Project, which organized for Oregon’s New Motor Voter program. The Bus Project:

Remember to take pictures, and share them with us on twitter or facebook!

Op-Eds: Send opinion pieces or updates like the ones below to newspapers.

Press Releases: Press releases are another useful way to work with local media to educate people in your state. For example:

  • The Brennan Center for Justice issued this press release when Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed automatic voter registration into law.
  • California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued this press release when California’s legislature passed automatic voter registration.

Check out our templates for press releases, op-eds, sample tweets, and sample graphics to start getting the word out in your state!

Sample Graphics

Use these sample graphics and templates to help your message pop on social media:

Oregon Stats.png

Caption: 

Sample Op-Ed

Fill in the blanks below for an op-ed on automatic voter registration.

CHOOSE one of the following for the first paragraph:

  1. [Start with a brief story about voter registration from your state.]
  2. [Iris Hodge is a single mother from Portland, Oregon. For Hodge, rent increases and job changes have meant moving frequently - approximately every two years. Taking care of her family leaves Hodge little time for worrying about a complicated voter registration process every time she moves, and she isn’t alone. About 29,000 people in Oregon could not vote in the 2008 and 2012 elections because they registered to vote after the registration deadline. “Between my busy work schedule and caring for my son I could easily imagine myself forgetting to update my registration with my new address,” Hodge said. “[Automatic voter registration] would ensure my voice is heard.”]

Automatic Voter Registration is an innovative system that registers voters electronically with data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, streamlining the registration process and reaching a greater number of people who are eligible to vote. Five states - Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut - have passed “New Motor Voter” laws, and early reports show significant increases in the number of registered voters and in voter participation. Several states, including [State Name], are working toward passing automatic voter registration. New Motor Voter laws are an important piece of a growing movement in states across the country to modernize and expand access to the ballot box.

Strong civic engagement is the bedrock of our democracy; without it, the political process that ensures our voices are heard is missing a critical piece. In the 2014 election cycle, voter participation dropped to 36%, the lowest since World War II. According to Pew, in the U.S., 65% of people who are eligible to vote are registered, compared with 96% in Sweden and 93% in the U.K. To encourage more people to participate, we need to register more people to vote - in 2014, 90% of registered voters actually voted, so we know registration and voting are connected.  

In [State Name], [Number of Unregistered Citizens] eligible citizens cannot exercise their voice because they are not registered to vote. Modernizing our elections and shifting the responsibility of protecting and expanding voting rights from the individual to the state will dramatically increase the likelihood that those [Number of Unregistered Citizens] will participate in our elections. The benefits of automatic voter registration are particularly striking for young people. In Oregon, just over 50% of new voters were between 18 and 35 years old, and young people registered through the Oregon Motor Voter program voted in the 2016 Oregon primary at similar or higher rates than young people registered through traditional methods.

Historically, voter registration has acted as a barrier to the fundamental right to vote; in [State Name], automatic voter registration could transform voter registration into an opportunity for all our citizens to participate in the political process. Together, we can bring our elections into the 21st century, and it is urgent that we do. Corporate and special interests are working to enact barriers to voting that silence our voices and disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other vulnerable populations. Some states are cutting back on measures like early and absentee voting and same-day registration and moving our country backward with laws designed to make voting harder, not easier. Nationwide, the Brennan Center for Justice estimates approximately 50 million eligible Americans remain unregistered to vote, and approximately 24 million registrations contain errors or outdated information that bar registered voters from the ballot box. A wealthy few would rather keep 74 million eligible Americans from voting; in [State Name], we must stand together to move our democracy forward, not back.

States and state legislatures across the country are moving automatic voter registration forward because it works. During Oregon Motor Voter’s first seven months, the Oregon Secretary of State reported 206,554 residents registered to vote using the program. The Elections Division sent an average of 831 new voter registration cards per day - before the automatic voter registration, Oregon registered only 2,023 new voters per month. In Vermont, state officials estimate that automatic voter registration could add as many as 50,000 new voters, and in California, state officials estimate that the New Motor Voter Act could reach about 6.6 million unregistered citizens are eligible to vote.

We already know we can succeed. In the face of these attacks on our democracy, a record-breaking 1.2 million people voted in Oregon’s primary because of the stunning success of Oregon Motor Voter. [State Name] can lead the charge to break records in every election and every state until every voice is heard. Automatic Voter Registration is a crucial first step in building a government that works for all of us, in our state and across the nation, and the people of [State Name] are determined to take it.

 

 

Sample Press Release

If your state legislature introduces an automatic voter registration bill, fill in the blanks below to tell the press about it. Use this format to write press releases when you have campaign updates.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[Insert date]

CONTACT: [Insert name]

[Insert email]

[Insert phone]

[State Name] State Legislature Introduces [Name of Act]

Modernizing our elections with a New Motor Voter system ensures every voice is heard in our state’s political process.

CITY - State legislature introduced [Bill Number], a measure that would enact an automatic voter registration or “New Motor Voter” system in [State Name]. This system would add thousands of new registrants to the voter rolls when they apply for or renew driver’s licenses or state IDs at the Department of Motor Vehicles. If they choose, citizens can opt out of registering or request to be removed from the voter rolls at any time.

The [State Name] [Name of Act] shifts the burden of registering to vote from the individual to the state and transforms voter registration from a barrier to an opportunity to include as many eligible voices in the political process as possible. Automatic Voter Registration has proven successful in dramatically increasing voter participation; in Oregon, the first state to fully implement the program, registration jumped from just over 2,000 new voters per month to an average of 831 per day during the first six months.

The program is particularly important for young people; 50% of the 206,554 Oregonians registered to vote during the first seven months of Oregon New Motor Voter were under the age of 35, and young voters registered to vote through the DMV equaled or outnumbered voters registered using traditional methods across Oregon’s election districts.

In [State Name], we must deliver on the promise of a democracy that listens to every voice and counts every vote equally. Automatic voter registration is an innovative strategy for modernizing our elections that will help engage a larger, more diverse body of citizens, especially vulnerable populations like young people. Voting should be easier, not harder, because when some voices cannot access our state’s democracy, we all miss out. [Name of Act] will help expand the fundamental right to vote for everyone and ensure that our state’s government truly represents the people of [State Name].

[Name of Organization] strongly urges the state legislature to pass [Name of Act] and stand with the people of [State Name]. “This bill represents the promise of American democracy, a democracy that is of, by, and for the people,” said [Organization Leader]. “Our state depends on equal access to the ballot box, and [Name of Act] will protect the civic sacrament of voting, strengthen the foundation of our democracy, and give our families and our communities the voice we need.”

 

 

Sample Tweets

Sample Tweets: These tweets are a good starting point for amplifying your work among allies and activists. For particular pieces of legislation, use the bill number as a hashtag - in California, for example, activists and advocates used #AB1461. You can also use a more generic hashtag, such as #AVRforAll, or a hashtag specific to your state, such as #AVRinIL (the hashtag Illinois activists used to get the word out). As much as possible, use one or two hashtags consistently.

Tip: Circulating sample tweets among friends and fellow activists can help generate exposure and encourage more people to mobilize and engage with work to expand voting rights.

  • A strong democracy depends on strong citizen participation – #[Bill] guarantees everyone has a voice. #AVRforAll
  • Contact your legislator today and demand action on #[Bill] to protect our state’s democracy. #AVRforAll
  • Together, we can make sure everyone has a voice in our state’s democracy. #AVRforAll #[Bill]
  • Support automatic voter registration and help remove the first barrier to the fundamental right to vote. #AVRforAll #[Bill]
  • The registration gap is hardest on young people. #[Bill] gives our children the access they need to become tomorrow’s voters #NewMotorVoter
  • Together, let’s show America that [State Name] believes in protecting the right to vote for everyone. #AVRforAll #[Bill]
  • In [State Name], we can ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy with automatic voter registration. #AVRforAll #[Bill]
  • I support #[Bill] because I support the voices of millions more citizens who will be registered to vote in [State Name]. #AVRforAll

 

 

 

Take Action

You can take a lot of different actions to fight for automatic voter registration. For example, when the Secretary of State organized public hearings for the Oregon New Motor Voter program, the Bus Project turned people out to attend and testify at hearings. They used this signup form, talked about the hearings on their blog here and here, and promoted the hearings on twitter and using a facebook event.

Actions can be as simple as calling your state’s elected officials or as complicated as turning people out to attend a hearing. You could:

  • Call your state legislators or organize a phone banking event;
  • Circulate a petition among members of your community;
  • Send a postcard to your elected officials;
  • And more!

The materials listed below can help you get started taking action in your community.

Remember: we’re here to help. If you’re mobilizing in your state, let us know!

 

Calling Elected Officials

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) and expressing your support for automatic voter registration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to ask [State Official] to support [Bill #], which will implement an automatic voter registration system in our state. This legislation has the potential to engage thousands of eligible voters, and will minimize registration errors, cut costs, and modernize our state elections. [Bill #] also expands access for communities that often go underserved by turning registration into a gateway for civic engagement, rather than a barrier. Five other states - Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut - have passed automatic voter registration and dramatically increased the number of registered voters. [State Name] must join them in expanding access to our state's democracy and encouraging participation from all citizens in our political process. Thank you.

 

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) to thank them for championing automatic voter registration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to thank [State Official] for fighting to pass [Bill #], which will implement an automatic voter registration system in our state. As a citizen of [State Name], it is very important to me that everyone in our state has access to our political process, and I appreciate [State Official]'s work to engage thousands of eligible voters, minimize registration errors, cut costs, and modernize our state elections. Automatic voter registration expands access for communities that often go underserved by turning registration into a gateway for civic engagement, rather than a barrier. I encourage [State Official] to continue supporting [Bill #], standing for all the communities in our state, and protecting all our voices in the political process. Thank you.

 

Phone Banking in Your Community

Phone banking is a great way to talk to people in your community about automatic voter registration. Follow these key steps to organize a successful phone bank, and check our sample script below.

  1. Choose a location that has everything you need. Make sure you have access to phones, places to charge mobile phones, materials for keeping track of your calls, and necessities like bathrooms and parking for your volunteers.
  2. Recruit volunteers. They can be your friends, family, and neighbors, people from your church or your workplace - anyone who wants to help protect your state’s democracy! Make sure to send out reminders before the event so they know where and when to show up.
  3. Prepare materials ahead of time. You will need:
    • Call lists: Pull names and phone numbers from petitions you’ve circulated, organizations in your coalition, or groups in your community (i.e. church, parent-teacher associations, etc.).
    • A call script: Fill in the blanks in the sample below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.
    • Snacks! If your location allows it, make sure to bring refreshments for your volunteers.
  4. Help your volunteers get to know each other! Encourage volunteers to introduce themselves and talk about why they are volunteering before you begin.
  5. Keep a record. Write down who you’ve talked to, who supports AVR, and who wants to get involved with the campaign.
  6. Debrief. At the end, take the time to reflect with your volunteers and talk about highs, lows, and ways you can improve.

 

Sample Script: Fill in the blanks below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.

Hi! My name is [Name]. I’m from [City/Town], and I’d like to talk to you about automatic voter registration. Do you know what automatic voter registration is?

Automatic voter registration is a program that allows the [State name] government to register people to vote when they request or renew a license at the DMV. Anyone can opt out of registering or request to be removed from the voter rolls at any time. To make sure our voices are heard, we need to register as many people who are eligible to vote as possible, and automatic voter registration is a cheaper, easier, and more effective system that will help engage more people in our democracy.

Sample questions:

  • Do you support automatic voter registration for [State name]?
  • Would you be interested in joining the fight to pass automatic voter registration in our state?
  • Would you be interested in receiving email or mail updates on our campaign to pass automatic voter registration? [If yes, record contact information]
  • Would you be interested in contributing to our campaign?

 

 

Sample Action Alert

Fill in the blanks below for an email action alert. You can also share action alerts on facebook and link to the alert on twitter.

Subject: ACTION NEEDED: [Action Name]

Body:

Dear [Name/Friend],

Our state's democracy needs you! Join activists from all over [State Name] in the fight for automatic voter registration, a program that allows the [State name] government to register people to vote when they request or renew a license at the DMV. Anyone can opt out of registering or request to be removed from the voter rolls at any time.

At [Time] on [Day of the Week, Month + Date], we are gathering together to [Include a short description of your action, i.e. "attend public hearings to testify on behalf of our communities about the need to expand access to voting for all"]. Together, we can modernize our antiquated election system and transform voter registration from a barrier to a gateway to our state's democracy.

Can we count on you? RSVP today in the form below!

[Link to an online form or survey*]

Forward together, not one step back!

[Organization/Campaign Name]

*Online forms include Google forms, SurveyMonkey surveys, and more. Make sure to ask for names, phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses, which can be helpful for other actions and petitions, as well as any logistical information you need. For example, if you will be serving food at an event, you should ask for details like preference and dietary restrictions.

Sample Petition

Fill in the blanks below to create a petition for members of your community to sign. Keeping track of contact information from people who have signed your petition can be helpful for organizing other actions, such as events and phone banks.

Remove Barriers to Democracy with Automatic Voter Registration

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, and anti-voter restrictions on the state level, automatic voter registration is a significant step forward in the modernization of our voting registration process. [Bill #] creates a secure and modern registration system to engage every eligible citizen in our democracy. 

This bill would automatically register eligible citizens to vote when they interact with the DMV, and opens the door to expanding the system to other state agencies in the future. 

Similar legislation has already been passed in a diverse range of states like Oregon, California, Vermont, West Virginia, and Connecticut where political leaders are coming together across partisan divides to ensure that voting is accessible. 

We urge our legislators to take a stand for democracy by supporting [Bill #] and bringing automatic voter registration to [State Name]

Signature:

Print Name:         

Phone:         

Email:

Address:

Sample Sign-On Letter

Fill in the blanks to create a sign-on letter for organizations, advocates, and activists to express their solidarity and support for automatic voter registration measures in your state.

Dear [Lawmaker],

We, the undersigned [organizations/constituents], write in support of [Bill #], which provides for Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) through designated government agencies. As organizations dedicated to promoting a fair and accessible democracy, we strongly support passage of this critical piece of legislation. 

AVR takes meaningful strides to modernize voter registration in manners that are robust and inclusive, transforming the voter registration process from a barrier to a gateway of civic engagement. This legislation will add more eligible voters to the rolls and update existing registrations more frequently, giving elections officials a more accurate list.

Five states - Oregon, California, West Virginia, Vermont, and Connecticut - have already passed automatic voter registration and so should [State Name]. This legislation has the potential to engage thousands of new voters while safeguarding the security of the state’s elections processes and cutting down on costs. [Bill #] features many provisions that are considered best practices for enacting and implementing AVR and will position our state as a leader in election modernization and reform.

We urge you to pass [Bill #].

Sincerely,

[List Organizations]

Writing to Elected Officials

Fill in the blanks below for a sample message to a state legislator. When you have finished, handwrite the message, and encourage your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other members of your community to write their own notes and postcards.

**Collecting and sending handwritten notes or postcards to elected officials is an important tactic for showing legislators that you and your fellow activists feel strongly about passing automatic voter registration and that many of their constituents consider the health of your state’s democracy a priority.**

 

Dear [State Legislator’s Name],

My name is [Name], and I am from [City/Town]. I am writing to ask you to help pass [Bill #], which will implement an automatic voter registration system in our state. Automatic voter registration will help minimize registration errors, cut costs, and modernize our elections. As a citizen of [State Name], it is very important to me that everyone in our state has a voice, and [Bill #] will help ensure that as many eligible people as possible have access to the ballot box.

[Optional: include a personal story about why this issue matters to you!]

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Same Day Registration

Same day registration is a law that allows voters to register and vote all at once on Election Day or during early voting, rather than requiring them to register 30 days before voting begins. Research shows that same day registration most consistently and substantially increases voter turnout among voting rights reforms.

Download our fact sheet on same day registration here.

Same Day Registration in States

By 2018, 16 states and the District of Columbia will allow same day registration. Thirteen states already use it, and three states - California, Vermont, and Hawaii - are working to implement same day registration over the next two years. California and Vermont passed both same day registration and automatic voter registration as complementary pieces of a strategy to modernize their voting systems and expand access to the vote.

Nine of the 16 states passed same day registration during the past ten years, but some states, like Wisconsin, Maine, and Minnesota have used same day registration since the 1970s. The facts are clear - data from the past 32 years has shown that same day registration consistently increases voter participation by at least ten percentage points. States looking to modernize and make it easier for people to vote have found that same day registration is the cheapest, easiest path to measurable gains.

In the past few years, however, some state governments have been trying to dismantle same day registration, despite the overwhelming evidence of its success. In 2012, in Wisconsin, a new administration tried to repeal same day registration after the law had been in place for 37 years. The people of Wisconsin demanded that their government respect the long tradition of equal access to the ballot box in their state, and together, they made sure that the voices of the many outweighed the interests of a few.

Click here to learn more about the fight for same day registration, and check out our guides to taking action and getting the word out to find out how you can join the fight!

 

 

Fighting for Same Day Registration

It's no coincidence that two of the states with the strongest voter turnout - Wisconsin and Minnesota - have used same day registration since the 1970s. States working to modernize elections and boost voter participation enact same day registration because it has an immediate, measurable effect in expanding access to the vote. Although same day registration has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans register and vote more easily, small groups within state governments are trying to block or dismantle same day registration.

Check out a few key profiles on same day registration in states across the country below, and find out where your state stands on same day here!

Wisconsin's Story

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s same day registration law has given the state one of the highest voter participation rates in the nation since it was passed in 1976. In 2012, however, Gov. Scott Walker tried to repeal same day registration, citing concerns that too many people would turn out to vote on Election Day for poll workers to handle, even though the program had worked well for 37 years. Poll workers spoke out against these concerns, and a report issued by the Government Accountability Board found that eliminating same-day registration would be expensive, with no impact on reducing the workload of election staff.

The citizens of Wisconsin came together to demand the convenience and access to the ballot box that has helped lift up their voices. In the end, Governor Walker was forced to back down from ending same-day registration, especially as his own son used it to register while accompanied by the governor. The fight for voting rights continues in Wisconsin, and together, Wisconsinites are ensuring that their voices and the voices of their children will be heard for years to come.

Minnesota's Story

Minnesota

Like Wisconsin, Minnesota has a longstanding tradition of strong civic engagement. Alongside Wisconsin and Maine, Minnesota was one of the first states to pass same day registration in 1974. Today, Minnesota has led the nation in voter turnout for both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Minnesota elections already use early votingonline voter registrationno excuse absentee ballots, and portable registration, and activists and advocates in the state are working toward reforms like automatic voter registration and pre-registration.

In 2012, the people of Minnesota rejected a restrictive voter-ID ballot measure - the first time a voter-ID law had been defeated at the ballot box - because so many Minnesotans mobilized to protect the equal access that had shaped their state for decades. As Secretary of State Steve Simon said, "The debate has been more or less settled [in Minnesota]. I'd hope that some people have learned their lesson about rash attacks on the right to vote."

Hawaii's Story

Hawaii

During the elections following Hawaii's statehood in 1959, Hawaii's voter turnout was a consistent 90% of the voting-age population. Today, however, Hawaii has the lowest voter participation rates in the country. Hawaii's Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed same day registration into law in July 2014 to help new voters come to the polls by 2018. State Representative Kaniela Ing, who helped introduce the same day registration bill, said, "No matter what the reason is, people aren't coming to the polls and government should make it as easy as possible for new voters to be able to do so."

In Hawaii, local elections have been decided by fewer than 20 votes, and new voters like Elle Cochran can tip the balance even further. Cochran voted for the first time when she ran for office in 2006 to protect her beloved Honolua Bay from a real estate development, and during the campaign, she inspired her friend's 18-year-old daughter to register, vote, and pass out registration forms to 30 or 40 friends. In Hawaii's tightly knit communities, same day registration will help people like Cochran take action and vote on the issues that matter to their friends, families, and neighbors.

North Carolina's Story

North Carolina

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly repealed same day registration in a measure creating several barriers to the ballot and dismantling much of the state’s work to modernize voting. The greatest impact of this decision fell most directly on communities of color - 41% of the North Carolinians who used same day registration to register and vote in 2012 were African-American. According to Demos, a total of around 250,000 residents used same day registration in the 2012 presidential election alone, and North Carolina’s voter participation rate rose 8 percent after the program was enacted - the largest increase in the nation in 2008.

Despite the repeal, the people of North Carolina continued to challenge attacks on their voting rights and champion the success of same day registration in the state. As NC NAACP President Rev. William Barber II said, “You can’t take government of the people, by the people, from the people,” and he was right. On July 29, 2016, in a stunning victory for voting rights and civil rights, a federal appeals court found that the 2013 law violated the Voting Rights Act and that the law was passed with discriminatory intent. Because the law that instituted the discriminatory voter-ID standards was the same one that repealed same day registration, the court's decision temporarily restores the right for North Carolinians to vote early and register on Election Day in November 2016.

The fight isn't over yet, though - activists and advocates in North Carolina are working to get the word out and educate the people of North Carolina on what same day registration means for them.

 

Get the Facts

Here are the facts: Same Day Registration is proven to be the most consistently effective reform for expanding access to the fundamental right to vote.

  • From the landmark laws in Maine in 1973 to Vermont's Act 44 in 2015, 16 states and the District of Columbia have passed Same Day Registration throughout half a century of clear success. 
  • The turnout rate in states with Same Day Registration has remained at least 10 percentage points above states without it for the past 32 years.
  • If every state had Same Day Registration, research suggests that overall voter participation would increase by at least 5%.
  • Same Day Registration has the strongest effect on people who move often such as young people and communities of color. For example, young people were 41% more likely to vote in the 2008 election in states with Same Day Registration than states without it.

 

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Caption: 

 

 

Get the Word Out

A successful campaign for same day registration educates and engages people in your community. Use:

Social Media: Check out this blogpost from Demos on Vermont’s same day registration, and search #votingrights or #registertovote for examples of activists talking about about voting rights on twitter. Remember to take pictures, and share them with us on twitter or facebook!

Op-Eds: Send opinion pieces or updates like the ones below to newspapers.

Press Releases: Press releases are another useful way to work with local media to educate people in your state. For example:

  • Demos issued this press release when Connecticut passed same day and online voter registration.
  • The League of Women Voters issued this press release when a federal appeals court struck down the repeal of same day registration (as part of a restrictive 2013 voter-ID law).

Check out our templates for press releases, op-eds, sample tweets, and sample graphics to start getting the word out in your state!

 

Sample Press Release

If your state legislature introduces a same day registration bill, fill in the blanks below to tell the press about it. Use this format to write press releases when you have campaign updates.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

[Insert date]

CONTACT: [Insert name]

[Insert email]

[Insert phone]

[State Name] State Legislature Introduces [Name of Act]

Allowing [State Name] citizens to register and vote at the same time on Election Day ensures every voice is heard in our political process.

CITY - State legislature introduced [Bill Number], a measure that would enact same day registration in our state, a program that allows citizens to register and vote at the same time on Election Day.

So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia use or will use some form of same day registration. These states have consistently and significantly higher voter turnout than states that don’t allow same day registration - about ten percentage points per year since Maine, Minnesota, and Wisconsin passed the reform in the 1970s. Today, Minnesota and Wisconsin are the top two states for voter turnout in the country, and their success is not a coincidence. Everyone from election law experts to county clerks across the nation agrees that same day registration is the strongest reform out there for increasing civic participation.

Same day registration is especially important for future generations of voters; in the 2008 election, young people were 41% more likely to vote if they lived in a state that allowed them to register on Election Day. In fact, research suggests that if every state had same day registration, our nation’s voter turnout rate would increase by at least 5%.

States that start using same day registration get results almost immediately. In North Carolina, voter participation rose by 8% after lawmakers enacted the program in 2007, and a total of 250,000 residents used same day registration to vote in the 2012 election. In [State name], same day registration could protect the voices of thousands of citizens - our friends, our neighbors, and our children - and ensure that our democracy represents everyone in our state.

[Name of Organization] strongly urges the state legislature to pass [Name of Act] and stand with the people of [State Name]. “This bill represents the promise of American democracy, a democracy that is of, by, and for the people,” said [Organization Leader]. “Our state depends on equal access to the ballot box, and [Name of Act] will protect the civic sacrament of voting, strengthen the foundation of our democracy, and give our families and our communities the voice we need.”

 

 

Sample Op-Ed

Fill in the blanks below for an op-ed on same day registration.

[OPTIONAL: Start with a brief story about voter registration from your state.]

In 1942, 21-year-old Rosanell Eaton became one of the few black women to make it onto the voting rolls in the state of North Carolina after overcoming tests designed to exclude her from the political process. She became a lifelong voting rights activist, registering thousands of fellow citizens to vote and voting in 70 years’ worth of elections. In 2013, however, North Carolina passed an omnibus bill that prevented Eaton from voting because the name on the voter registration card she received in 1942 - (Rosanell Eaton) did not match the name on her driver’s license (Rosa Johnson Eaton).

In 2015, Eaton, now 94, made 11 trips to different agencies over the course of a month to comply with the new voter-ID law. The woman whom Jim Crow-era North Carolina had allowed to vote traveled a total of 200 miles to reclaim the right she spent 70 years working to expand, and she was not alone. More than 300,000 North Carolinians lacked sufficient ID to comply with the 2013 law. In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled that the law violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, and that the North Carolina legislature passed it with discriminatory intent, resulting in an injunction that struck down the ID requirement that had barred Eaton from the ballot box. The court’s decision also reinstated the safety net that would have protected Eaton’s voice before she had to travel 200 miles to restore it: same day registration.

Same day registration allows citizens to register and vote at the same time on Election Day or, in North Carolina’s case, during the early voting period. Same day registration does not just simplify the registration process for new voters. With same day registration, people like Eaton experiencing difficulties with their registration can work with state officials to protect both the integrity of our elections and the fundamental right to vote for all eligible citizens. Same day registration is the most consistently successful reform for protecting the voices of young people, communities of color, senior citizens, and working families because it makes voting convenient for all Americans.

It’s no coincidence that Minnesota and Wisconsin - both of which have used same day registration since the 1970s - have had the top two voter turnout rates in the country in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Voter participation rates in states with same day registration has been about 10 percentage points above states without it for over 30 years. Research suggests that if every state in the country used same day registration, the overall voter turnout rate would increase by at least 5%. With 41% more young voters participating in the 2008 election in states with same day registration than states without it, the reform’s success over the next 30 years could be even more dramatic.

The facts are clear: same day registration is the best option for states looking to engage as many eligible voters as possible. North Carolina passed same day registration in 2007 to boost voter turnout, and in 2008, the state’s voter turnout increased by 8% - the largest improvement in the nation. Hawaii passed same day registration in 2014 to address the state’s low voter participation because it has such as strong track record of immediate, measurable results in expanding access to the vote. As Hawaii State Representative Kaniela Ing said, "No matter what the reason is, people aren't coming to the polls and government should make it as easy as possible for new voters to be able to do so."

Same day registration has also withstood attack after attack from individual interests trying to dismantle due to widespread public support. Today, 16 states use or will use same day registration, and the people of states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Carolina have mobilized in defense of the program.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker tried to repeal same day registration, citing concerns that too many people would turn out to vote on Election Day for poll workers to handle, even though the program had worked well for 37 years. Poll workers spoke out against these concerns, and a report issued by the Government Accountability Board found that eliminating same-day registration would be expensive, with no impact on reducing the workload of election staff. The citizens of Wisconsin came together to demand the convenience and access to the ballot box that had helped lift up their voices for decades. In the end, Governor Walker was forced to back down, especially as his own son used it to register while accompanied by the governor.

Historically, voter registration has acted as a barrier to the fundamental right to vote; in [State Name], same day registration could transform voter registration into an opportunity for all our citizens to participate in the political process. Small groups are working to enact barriers to voting that silence our voices and disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other vulnerable populations. Some states are cutting back on measures like same day registration and moving our country backward with laws designed to make voting harder, not easier. Some individuals would rather keep eligible Americans from voting. In [State Name], we must stand together to make sure that the voices of the many outweigh the interests of a few.

We already know we can succeed. In November 2016, Rosanell Eaton will vote in her 19th presidential election alongside hundreds of thousands of voters who will register and vote for the first time on Election Day. Same day registration is a crucial first step in building a government in which our voices are heard, in our state and across the nation, and the people of [State Name] are determined to take it.

 

 

Sample Tweets

Sample Tweets: These tweets are a good starting point for amplifying your work among allies and activists. For particular pieces of legislation, use the bill number as a hashtag. You can also use a more generic hashtag, such as #votingrights or #registertovote, to start the conversation in your state about same day registration. As much as possible, use one or two hashtags consistently.

Tip: Circulating sample tweets among friends and fellow activists can help generate exposure and encourage more people to mobilize and engage with work to expand voting rights.

Linking to articles: Help educate members of your community with links to articles like these, or submit your own op-eds and press releases, then share on twitter. If the link is too long, use a url shortener like this one.

  • How can same day registration help our state? Read about it here: [link to article].
  • Where does your state stand on same day registration? Find out here: goo.gl/UHgQIl.
  • Check out this op-ed on same day registration and how it could transform our state’s democracy: [link to article].

Using graphics: Adding visuals is another great way to spread the word! Attach these sample graphics to the tweets below to create a more dynamic message.

  • Did you know 16 states and the District of Columbia will have same day registration by 2018? #votingrights [GRAPHIC - Map]
  • Wisconsin and Minnesota have had same day registration since the 1970s #registertovote [GRAPHIC - Wisconsin/Minnesota]
  • States w/ same day registration get 10% higher voter turnout than states w/out it #votingrights [GRAPHIC - 10%]

Statistics: Getting the facts out is key to getting the word out - tweet about same day registration by the numbers using the sample tweets below.

  • States w/ same day registration get 10% higher voter turnout than states w/out it. It’s time for #votingrights for all in [State Name]
  • Young ppl were 41% more likely to vote in 2008 if their state had same day registration. It’s time for #votingrights for all in [State Name]
  • Same day registration works for all Americans in 16 states. It’s time to help citizens of [State Name] #registertovote

General Samples:

  • We need to make it easier for all citizens to #registertovote with same day registration for [State Name]. #votingrights
  • In [State Name], we can ensure everyone has a voice in our democracy with same day registration. #votingrights

 

Sample Graphics

Using graphics: Adding visuals is another great way to spread the word! Attach these sample graphics to the tweets below to create a more dynamic message.

  • Did you know 16 states and the District of Columbia will have same day registration by 2018? #votingrights [GRAPHIC - Map]
  • Wisconsin and Minnesota have had same day registration since the 1970s #registertovote [GRAPHIC - Wisconsin/Minnesota]
  • States w/ same day registration get 10% higher voter turnout than states w/out it #votingrights [GRAPHIC - 10%]

GRAPHIC - Map

GRAPHIC - Wisconsin/Minnesota

GRAPHIC - 10%

Take Action

You can take a lot of different actions in your community to help expand access to the ballot. In Hawaii, for example, a group called Kanu Hawaii went door-to-door passing out voter registration forms and educating their friends and neighbors to help increase voter turnout.

Actions can be as simple as calling your state’s elected officials or as complicated as turning people out to attend an event. You could:

  • Call your state legislators or organize a phone banking event;
  • Circulate a petition among members of your community;
  • Send a postcard to your elected officials;
  • And more!

The materials listed below can help you get started taking action in your community.

Remember: we’re here to help. If you’re mobilizing in your state, let us know!

 

Calling Elected Officials

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) and expressing your support for same day registration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to ask [State Official] to support [Bill #], which will implement same day registration in our state. Of all the voting rights reforms, same day registration has had the most consistent success in increasing voter turnout and engaging thousands of eligible voters. States like Wisconsin and Minnesota that have used same day registration for over 40 years have some of our country's highest voter participation rates, and states that begin using same day registration experience immediate growth in voter turnout. [State Name] must join them in expanding access to our state's democracy and encouraging participation from all citizens in our political process. Thank you.

 

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) to thank them for championing same day registration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to thank [State Official] for fighting to pass [Bill #], which will implement same day registration in our state. As a citizen of [State Name], it is very important to me that everyone in our state has access to our political process, and I appreciate [State Official]'s work to engage thousands of eligible voters and increase voter turnout in our state. Of all the voting rights reforms, same day registration has had the most consistent success in promoting strong civic engagement, and I encourage [State Official] to continue supporting [Bill #], standing for all the communities in our state, and protecting all our voices in the political process. Thank you.

Phone Banking in Your Community

Phone banking is a great way to talk to people in your community about same day registration. Follow these key steps to organize a successful phone bank, and check our sample script below.

  1. Choose a location that has everything you need. Make sure you have access to phones, places to charge mobile phones, materials for keeping track of your calls, and necessities like bathrooms and parking for your volunteers.
  2. Recruit volunteers. They can be your friends, family, and neighbors, people from your church or your workplace - anyone who wants to help protect your state’s democracy! Make sure to send out reminders before the event so they know where and when to show up.
  3. Prepare materials ahead of time. You will need:
    • Call lists: Pull names and phone numbers from petitions you’ve circulated, organizations in your coalition, or groups in your community (i.e. church, parent-teacher associations, etc.).
    • A call script: Fill in the blanks in the sample below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.
    • Snacks! If your location allows it, make sure to bring refreshments for your volunteers.
  4. Help your volunteers get to know each other! Encourage volunteers to introduce themselves and talk about why they are volunteering before you begin.
  5. Keep a record. Write down who you’ve talked to, who supports same day registration, and who wants to get involved with the campaign.
  6. Debrief. At the end, take the time to reflect with your volunteers and talk about highs, lows, and ways you can improve.

 

Sample Script: Fill in the blanks below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.

Hi! My name is [Name]. I’m from [City/Town], and I’d like to talk to you about same day registration. Do you know what same day registration is?

Same day registration is a program that allows people to register and vote at the same time on Election Day. To make sure our voices are heard, we need to register as many people who are eligible to vote as possible, and same day registration is simple, convenient, and consistently successful in engaging more people in our democracy.

Sample questions:

  • Do you support same day registration for [State name]?
  • Would you be interested in joining the fight to pass same day registration in our state?
  • Would you be interested in receiving email or mail updates on our campaign to pass same day registration? [If yes, record contact information]
  • Would you be interested in contributing to our campaign?

Sample Action Alert

Fill in the blanks below for an email action alert. You can also share action alerts on facebook and link to the alert on twitter.

Subject: ACTION NEEDED: [Action Name]

Body:

Dear [Name/Friend],

Our state's democracy needs you! Join activists from all over [State Name] in the fight for same day registration, a program that allows people to register and vote at the same time on Election Day. It's simple, convenient, and the most consistently successful way to engage new voters in our state.

At [Time] on [Day of the Week, Month + Date], we are gathering together to [Include a short description of your action, i.e. "attend public hearings to testify on behalf of our communities about the need to expand access to voting for all"]. Together, we can modernize our antiquated election system and transform voter registration from a barrier to a gateway to our state's democracy.

Can we count on you? RSVP today in the form below!

[Link to an online form or survey*]

Forward together, not one step back!

[Organization/Campaign Name]

*Online forms include Google formsSurveyMonkey surveys, and more. Make sure to ask for names, phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses, which can be helpful for other actions and petitions, as well as any logistical information you need. For example, if you will be serving food at an event, you should ask for details like preference and dietary restrictions.

Sample Petition

Fill in the blanks below to create a petition for members of your community to sign. Keeping track of contact information from people who have signed your petition can be helpful for organizing other actions, such as events and phone banks.

Remove Barriers to Democracy with Automatic Voter Registration

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, and anti-voter restrictions on the state level, same day registration is a significant step forward in the modernization of our voting registration process. [Bill #] creates a simple, convenient path to engaging every eligible citizen in our democracy. 

This bill would allow citizens to register and vote at the same time on Election Day. 

Similar legislation has been in place in a growing number of states since Minnesota, Maine, and Wisconsin passed same day registration in the 1970s. Since then, the reform has proven to consistently boost voter turnout by at least 10 percentage points in states that use it, and states that implement same day registration have experienced immediate increases in voter participation.

We urge our legislators to take a stand for democracy by supporting [Bill #] and bringing same day registration to [State Name]

Signature:

Print Name:         

Phone:         

Email:

Address:

Sample Sign-On Letter

Fill in the blanks to create a sign-on letter for organizations, advocates, and activists to express their solidarity and support for automatic voter registration measures in your state.

Dear [Lawmaker],

We, the undersigned [organizations/constituents], write in support of [Bill #], which provides for same day registration in our state. As organizations dedicated to promoting a fair and accessible democracy, we strongly support passage of this critical piece of legislation. 

Same day registration takes meaningful strides to simplify voter registration and increase access to the ballot box for our communities, transforming the voter registration process from a barrier to a gateway of civic engagement.

Several states already use same day registration and so should [State Name]. Similar legislation has been in place in a growing number of states since Minnesota, Maine, and Wisconsin passed same day registration in the 1970s. Since then, the reform has proven to consistently boost voter turnout by at least 10 percentage points in states that use it, and states that implement same day registration have experienced immediate increases in voter participation. [Bill #] features many provisions that are considered best practices for enacting and implementing same day registration and will position our state as a leader in election modernization and reform.

We urge you to pass [Bill #].

Sincerely,

[List Organizations]

Writing to Elected Officials

Fill in the blanks below for a sample message to a state legislator. When you have finished, handwrite the message, and encourage your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other members of your community to write their own notes and postcards.

**Collecting and sending handwritten notes or postcards to elected officials is an important tactic for showing legislators that you and your fellow activists feel strongly about passing same day registration and that many of their constituents consider the health of your state’s democracy a priority.**

 

Dear [State Legislator’s Name],

My name is [Name], and I am from [City/Town]. I am writing to ask you to help pass [Bill #], which will implement same day registration in our state. Same day registration will simplify the registration process and help people in my community register and vote more easily. As a citizen of [State Name], it is very important to me that everyone in our state has a voice, and [Bill #] will help ensure that as many eligible people as possible have access to the ballot box.

[Optional: include a personal story about why this issue matters to you!]

Sincerely,

[Signature]

Voting Rights Restoration

Voting rights restoration gives formerly incarcerated people a voice at the ballot box once they have completed their sentences and are living and working in our communities. Currently, almost 6 million Americans are unable to vote because of a felony conviction. Research shows that restoring the right to vote helps people with past convictions successfully reintegrate into their communities. We need to empower Americans who have completed their sentences to participate in the political process, because when some voices are excluded, we all miss out.

  • Some states have different forms of voting rights restoration - in Massachusetts, for example, people can vote once they begin parole, while in Connecticut, people must complete parole to vote. Click here to learn more about voting rights restoration across the country!
  • Check out our guides to taking action and getting the word out to learn how you can help restore rights to people in your state.

Download our fact sheet on voting rights restoration here.

 

 

Voting Rights Restoration in States

This table from The Sentencing Project shows the different levels of voting rights restoration in states across the country. Where does your state fall?

Get the facts: Who is affected when states disenfranchise people who have committed crimes?

  • 5.85 million Americans. 75% of the people who have lost the right to vote because of incarceration are not actually incarcerated - most are people who are on parole, probation, or have completed their sentences.
  • 2.6 million people living and working in our communities who have completed their sentences, and are no longer on parole or probation. In states that disenfranchise people who have completed their sentences, as many as 40% of African American men could permanently lose the right to vote.
  • 2.2 million or 1 in 13 African Americans. In Florida, Virginia, and Kentucky - three of four states that permanently disenfranchise anyone convicted of a felony - about 1 in 5 African Americans is disenfranchised, and 3 in 10 of African American boys and young men can expect to be disenfranchised at some point in their lifetime.
  • All Americans affected by the presidential election in 2000 or the 7 Senate races from 1970 to 1998 that might have been different if more previously incarcerated people had the right to vote. When some voices are excluded from the political process, we all miss out.

Restoring the right to vote to previously incarcerated people helps our communities as a whole. One study shows that 27% of non-voters were rearrested, compared to 12% of voters. Civic engagement is a key piece of the conditions we need to develop to help reduce crime and send fewer people to prison.

Check out our state profiles to learn more about voting rights restoration across the country below:

 

Maryland's Story

Virginia's Story

Get the Word Out

Sample Graphics

Sample Op-Ed

Sample Press Release

Sample Tweets

Take Action

Calling Elected Officials

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) and expressing your support for voting rights restoration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to ask [State Official] to support [Bill #], which will restore the right to vote to thousands of citizens in our state. Research shows that civic participation helps people who have been incarcerated return to our communities, rather than our prisons. Further, as citizen of [State Name], I am deeply concerned that restricting the voting rights of people who have completed their sentences disproportionately excludes the voices of communities of color and low-income communities. [State Name] must work to expand access to our democracy and encourage participation from all citizens in our political process, because when some voices are excluded, we all miss out. Thank you.

 

Fill in the blanks below for a script to use when calling state officials (such as state legislators or the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Secretary of State) to thank them for championing voting rights restoration.

Hello. My name is [Name], from [City/Town]. I’m calling to thank [State Official] for fighting to pass [Bill #], which will will restore the right to vote to thousands of citizens in our state. As a citizen of [State Name], it is very important to me that everyone in our state has access to our political process, and I appreciate [State Official]'s work to help people who have been incarcerated return to our communities, rather than our prisons, by restoring their right to vote and engaging them in our democracy. [Bill #] is especially important for communities of color and low-income communities, because restricting the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people has a disproportionately negative effect on these communities. I encourage [State Official] to continue supporting [Bill #], standing for all the communities in our state, and protecting all our voices in the political process. Thank you.

Phone Banking in Your Community

Phone banking is a great way to talk to people in your community about voting rights restoration. Follow these key steps to organize a successful phone bank, and check our sample script below.

  1. Choose a location that has everything you need. Make sure you have access to phones, places to charge mobile phones, materials for keeping track of your calls, and necessities like bathrooms and parking for your volunteers.
  2. Recruit volunteers. They can be your friends, family, and neighbors, people from your church or your workplace - anyone who wants to help protect your state’s democracy! Make sure to send out reminders before the event so they know where and when to show up.
  3. Prepare materials ahead of time. You will need:
    • Call lists: Pull names and phone numbers from petitions you’ve circulated, organizations in your coalition, or groups in your community (i.e. church, parent-teacher associations, etc.).
    • A call script: Fill in the blanks in the sample below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.
    • Snacks! If your location allows it, make sure to bring refreshments for your volunteers.
  4. Help your volunteers get to know each other! Encourage volunteers to introduce themselves and talk about why they are volunteering before you begin.
  5. Keep a record. Write down who you’ve talked to, who supports same day registration, and who wants to get involved with the campaign.
  6. Debrief. At the end, take the time to reflect with your volunteers and talk about highs, lows, and ways you can improve.

 

Sample Script: Fill in the blanks below for a script that your volunteers can use while making their calls.

Hi! My name is [Name]. I’m from [City/Town], and I’d like to talk to you about voting rights restoration. Do you know what same day registration is?

Voting rights restoration gives formerly incarcerated people a voice at the ballot box once they have completed their sentences and are living and working in our communities. Research shows that restoring the right to vote helps people with past convictions successfully reintegrate into their communities. We need to empower Americans who have completed their sentences to participate in the political process, because when some voices are excluded, we all miss out.

Sample questions:

  • Do you support voting rights restoration for [State name]?
  • Would you be interested in joining the fight to pass voting rights restoration in our state?
  • Would you be interested in receiving email or mail updates on our campaign to pass voting rights restoration? [If yes, record contact information]
  • Would you be interested in contributing to our campaign?

Sample Action Alert

Fill in the blanks below for an email action alert. You can also share action alerts on facebook and link to the alert on twitter.

Subject: ACTION NEEDED: [Action Name]

Body:

Dear [Name/Friend],

Your voice matters. Join activists from all over [State Name] in the fight for voting rights restoration, a program that gives formerly incarcerated people a voice at the ballot box once they have completed their sentences and are living and working in our communities.

At [Time] on [Day of the Week, Month + Date], we are gathering together to [Include a short description of your action, i.e. "attend public hearings to testify on behalf of our communities about the need to expand access to voting for all"]. Together, we can empower Americans who have completed their sentences to participate in the political process, because when some voices are excluded, we all miss out.

Can we count on you? RSVP today in the form below!

[Link to an online form or survey*]

Forward together, not one step back!

[Organization/Campaign Name]

*Online forms include Google formsSurveyMonkey surveys, and more. Make sure to ask for names, phone numbers, email addresses, and street addresses, which can be helpful for other actions and petitions, as well as any logistical information you need. For example, if you will be serving food at an event, you should ask for details like preference and dietary restrictions.

Sample Petition

Sample Sign-On Letter

Writing to Elected Officials

Early Voting

Early in-person voting allows a voter to cast a ballot at a polling place a certain number of days before the official Election Day. Many Americans cannot take time off to vote on Election Day, and early voting is a common sense solution to the challenges of voting in our modern society and economy. Early voting is especially important for working families - with early voting, parents balancing work and childcare get extra time to fit in a visit to their local polling station.

So far, 37 states and the District of Columbia have implemented early voting, and about 1 in 5 voters in the 2012 presidential election voted early. Early voting also helps drive new voters to the polls; in 2014, more than 20% of early voters in Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa had not voted in the last midterm election cycle.

Download our fact sheet on early in-person voting here, and check back soon for content that will help you start taking action to pass early voting in your state!

 

 

Language Assistance Requirements

Americans with limited English proficiency are protected from discrimination based on language. As part of these protections, states are required to provide language assistance services, such as translated documents or interpreters, who help non-native English-speaking voters navigate the voting process. However, communities who do not meet a certain population threshold are often denied language assistance.  

Ensuring that language is not a barrier to voting is one way to help protect vulnerable communities from discrimination, ensure that all voices are heard equally, and guarantee that our government represents all of us.

Download our fact sheet on language assistance requirements here, and check back soon for content that will help you start taking action for language access in your state!

 

 

No Excuse and Permanent Mail Voting

With no excuse absentee ballots, any registered voters who submit an absentee ballot application will receive one without having to give an explanation. Voters can also ask to participate in permanent mail voting on their first absentee ballot application and receive ballots by mail for all subsequent elections until they decide to stop.

No excuse and permanent mail voting is convenient for both voters and state workers, who are less likely to make an error when they don’t have to sort through excuses. Opting to be a permanent mail voter is especially beneficial for Americans over the age of 65, who may have a harder time getting to the polls. So far, 27 states have no-excuse absentee ballots, five states allow citizens to submit absentee ballot applications online, and seven states offer permanent mail voting.

Download our fact sheet for no excuse and permanent mail voting here, and check back soon for content that will help you introduce no excuse and permanent mail voting in your state!

 

 

Online Voter Registration

Online voter registration allows people to register to vote online using a portal maintained by state election officials. Online voter registration is the fastest growing voting rights reform; beginning with Washington State in 2007, 29 states have enacted online voter registration measures.

Data from these states has shown that online voter registration is a safe, cost-effective way of modernizing the registration process and increasing turnout, especially among young and minority voters. In Arizona, for example, registration rates among 18-25 year olds jumped from 29% to 53% after the state implemented online voter registration.

Download our fact sheet on online voter registration here, and check back soon for content that will help you pass online voter registration in your state!

 

 

 

Portable Registration

Portable registration is an important intermediary step toward reforms like same day registration and automatic voter registration. States with portable registration allow registered voters who have moved somewhere within the state to update their address at their new local polling station on Election Day. In other words, if someone in your state were to move after the registration deadline for the 2016 general election had passed, he or she would still be able to vote in the election.

Today, we move more and more often - over 10% of Americans change their addresses in any given year. Portable registration is an important protection for populations like young people, who move even more often, and for working families who don’t have the time to update their voter registration in the middle of a busy move.

Download our fact sheet on portable registration here, and check back soon for content that will help you introduce portable registration in your state!

 

 

Pre-Registration

Pre-registration allows 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register before they turn 18. Young people who have pre-registered are then added to the voter rolls on their 18th birthday. Pre-registration is a way of preparing our children to engage in the political process and giving them all the tools they need to become the next generation of leaders.

Voter turnout among young people tends to hover about 15-25 percentage points below the rate for other age groups. Research shows that pre-registering 16 and 17-year-olds makes them more likely to vote once they turn 18. For example, in the 2008 presidential election, young African-Americans who pre-registered voted 5.2% percentage points above those who registered when they turned 18.

Download our fact sheet on pre-registration here, and check back soon for content that will help you take action to pass pre-registration in your state!

 

 

 

Transparency Requirements

Making sure the public knows where, when, and how to vote is essential to strong voter participation. Since the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder ruling weakened the Voting Rights Act, many states and counties that had previously reported changes to the US Department of Justice no longer have to catalogue those changes. As a result, citizens may not know where, when, and how to vote.

The transparency requirement would require local and state authorities to report new voting procedures clearly, quickly, and publicly. The measure would give people all the information they need to participate in the political process, help hold our government accountable to its citizens, and ensure that changes could be monitored.

Download our fact sheet on transparency requirements here, and check back soon for content on how you can take action to hold the government accountable in your state!