The many challenges of 2020 have reminded us that our actions and choices are inextricably linked to the wellbeing of our communities. Nowhere is this more evident than in civic engagement. Just as every individual’s choices impact the wellness of the community, every individual’s voice impacts the outcomes of elections, the census, and referendums. We truly are a nation of the people, by the people, for the people.
This year’s general election will take place shortly after the 2020 census ends. The census determines how resources and representation are allocated; an accurate census builds the foundation for a healthy democracy. The decision to end data collection on September 30th, 2020 has led to concerns about underreporting and inaccurate data collection. With COVID-19 complicating data collection efforts, supporting community efforts to get census forms completed is critical. For more information, visit the 2020 census website.
Last September, our National Voter Registration Day blog highlighted the importance of civic engagement. With the general election coming up in under fifty days, making sure you are able to vote is paramount.
With this in mind, we are collaborating with TurboVote (of Democracy Works) to augment our platform, connecting our community to additional resources that will make voting easier.
You can start planning now to make sure your voice is heard! In this post, we break down:
- Steps to safely vote, absentee or in person
- The integration with TurboVote
- Pledging to vote, its importance — and following through
Get Ready to Vote!
On July 14, 2020, our Austin-based GivePulse team took the opportunity to safely practice civic engagement by going to the polls. But this was not a one step process — in order to make sure our voices were heard, we had to make sure we took the following steps.
Step 1: Make sure you are registered to vote
In the 2016 national election, about 25% of eligible voters were unregistered, and these numbers are even higher for underrepresented communities. Voters may be unable to vote if their registrations are outdated or if they miss the deadline to register. You can register to vote and check on your registration status through the United States government website, or by pledging to vote using the Turbovote and GivePulse integration! Learn more below.
Step 2: Confirm the dates of upcoming elections
The U.S. Vote Foundation can help you determine any upcoming elections in your state. In addition, it shares deadlines for registration, changes to party affiliation, and absentee ballot requests. You should also double check whether or not your state allows early voting, and if so, when early voting begins. On GivePulse (through our collaboration with TurboVote), you can make a pledge to vote and keep track of important dates using the following link. With this augmentation, TurboVote will automatically provide SMS text and email reminders with important election information, key dates, and deadlines.
Step 3: Learn about the candidates and issues being voted on
Learn as much as you can about the candidates and issues to make an informed, conscientious vote. Ballot Ready offers information about the candidates and issues based on your home address, with clear and peer-reviewed information to help you decide who the best candidate is. In addition, talk to and listen to friends and family and review multiple news sources to gain insight into new, different and changing viewpoints. And most importantly, always verify any information that you read or hear using peer-reviewed, fact-checked sources! Be particularly thoughtful about information you glean from social media and online sources.
Step 4: Determine your polling location (or request a mail-in ballot)
Websites such as USA.gov will help you locate your polling place or request an absentee ballot. Vote.org can also help you find your polling place. Note that if you are going to request an absentee ballot, you should leave ample time before the deadline, which you can find out through our collaboration with TurboVote. For both in-person and absentee voting, you will likely need some form of ID. You can learn more about what you need through your State or Local Election Office Website. The National Conference of State Legislature offers an interactive map; hover over your state to learn about your identification requirements.
Step 5: Vote!
Depending on your state, the coronavirus pandemic may have updated the absentee ballot policies to allow for greater flexibility in using this secure and beneficial voting option. Learn more through vote.org. Once you have requested your absentee ballot, follow all instructions very carefully to make sure your vote is counted. Our civic engagement platform can also help you plan when you need to request your absentee ballot. Remember that once you have voted absentee, you can no longer vote in person. Decide which will be the best choice for you, and only vote once. Voting more than once is against the law.
Our team members were able to vote in-person in Texas — and one in Connecticut as well (#WFH)! These voting experiences were entirely safe and secure. When they reached the voting booth, each of our team members was met with masked and shielded poll workers, hand sanitizer options and socially distanced polling booths. In Connecticut, our team member was offered a pen to fill out the ballot that could be taken home after voting. In Texas, small finger coverings were offered to press the buttons on the ballots. Remember, voting early may mean a shorter wait for voting, so check to see if your state allows early voting today.
As you can see from steps 1-5, there is a lot to consider when it comes down to voting. The collaboration between GivePulse, a comprehensive community engagement platform, and TurboVote, a tool to help people vote, pairs the knowledge and abilities of both to reach a broad audience and provide the rules and steps for absentee, vote-by-mail, and voter registration.
This integration will encourage registration, education, and participation in the upcoming election this November. To this end, we have implemented the following:
- A platform-wide banner on GivePulse to encourage users to pledge to vote
- Those who pledge can then register for election reminders powered by TurboVote
- After the November election, users who pledged to vote will receive an automated email confirming their voter engagement
Our team knows that this partnership can make all the difference in this year’s election. Our democracy only works effectively if every citizen is able to make their voice heard.
Our TurboVote partnership utilizes pledge functionality to encourage voting, but you can also make your own pledge event, as an individual or an organization, to encourage your own community to vote! Our new Pledge Event functionality allows anyone to create a Pledge on the GivePulse platform to ask friends, group members, and others to commit to a specific action. In this case, that action might be voting! Check out our example Pledge Event below. For help creating your Pledge, email email@example.com. And join the other users on the GivePulse platform pledging to vote through the link here.
Other Forms of Civic Engagement
Voting is just one of many crucial aspects of civic engagement! Volunteer in your community, whether virtually or in-person; phone bank, send letters to congresspeople, and share information with your peers. And again, don’t forget to also fill out the 2020 census if you have not done so already!
Higher Ed Resources
Our higher education partners may also want to learn more about the impact that can be made by groups of voters, especially students, in this year’s election. Learn more through these excellent resources from our partners:
Pledge to help students vote: Our partners at Elon shared the Faculty Network for Student Voting Rights, which is currently seeking to recruit signers for its Faculty Pledge for Student Voting Rights. Making sure that students across the country are able to participate in this year’s election is of the utmost importance. We encourage faculty members to learn more about this network and to consider whether they want to sign the pledge.
Learn about the imperative of this year’s election: The Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University has released Election Imperatives 2020: A Time of Physical Distancing and Social Action. Read and share to learn about recommendations to encourage voting given the current social, political, and cultural context.
Learn about student voting realities on your campus: The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) allows campuses to learn about student registration and voting rates, and make decisions and plans accordingly.
Survey results reveal young people’s voting interests: The Center for Information and Research based on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has created a comprehensive survey of young people to learn more about their voting interests, and how this translates to efforts to Get Out The Vote.
Recruiting student poll workers: Given the anticipated shortage of poll workers for this November’s election, the Council of Independent Colleges encourages college students to power the polls in order to both meet this need and learn more about critical civic processes. Note: faculty can use the Council’s additional resources to help augment student experiences.
We hope that these resources will help all of our partners get out the vote. For more information about our partnership with TurboVote, pledging to vote, or just how to find more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.