By Kimberley Carroll-Cox
In any election, the goal of the candidate is to win. Because of this, they often do not adequately reach out and engage voters. Those who do not show up to the polls in years prior are brushed off as “unlikely voters” and are no longer pursued in attempts to secure their vote. This process begins a cycle of exclusion and ultimately alienates certain groups from participating. However, reaching out to disaffected voters is often all it takes to encourage them to vote, especially for voters who are new to the process.
As advocates, it’s up to us to ensure we are actively working to promote voter participation, and are doing so by providing our communities with the tools they need to navigate the system.
It’s often thought that engaging voters goes as far as getting them registered, but that simply isn't true. Maintaining enthusiasm in the run-up to the election is just as important, and there are a variety of things you can do to ensure they remain engaged.
Providing state-specific deadline reminders
Each state has different deadlines for requesting and receiving ballots. To avoid confusion, ensure your community is aware of their respected deadlines well in advance. This includes states that offer same-day registration.
Giving out information to help your community vote
Similar to reminders, ensuring your community has access to information will ensure their voting experience runs just as smoothly. Consider promoting polling hours, ward information, election help lines such as 866-OUR-VOTE and any available voting assistance.
Informing voters on their ballot options
This election provides voters with more ways to cast their vote than previous years. Many states have expanded their voting options to include voting by mail, voting early in-person, as well as voting on Election Day. Each option has advantages, and it’s important to help voters determine which method of voting is right for them.
Promoting early voting
There may be different deadlines for casting votes by mail, in-person or via ballot drop-off, so we suggest promoting early voting to your community to help alleviate added confusion and stress.
Note: Voting early periods vary state by state. For more information, visit vote4mentalhealth.org/voter-resources/ or check with your state’s election office.
Once you have walked through the various ballot options available this election, you should also stress the importance of having a plan to be #VoteReady. Having a plan offers peace of mind and allows for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise to be addressed early on. Suggest to your community that they send in ballots no later than Vote Early Day on Oct. 24.
Linking the election to the future of your issue
People are more likely to turn out because they believe their vote will make a difference to promote or protect an issue they care about. Use your mission and core issues to highlight what’s at stake. For example, encourage your community to #Vote4MentalHealth.
Making Election Day special
Treat the day as a holiday and encourage your community to celebrate democracy!
Together, we can work to ensure the voice of all citizens, especially those who are historically unheard and undercounted, are reflected throughout our democratic process.
Kimberley Carroll-Cox is the Communications and Development Coordinator at Nonprofit VOTE. Based in Massachusetts, Kimberley is originally from England and holds a BA in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
Find Your Local NAMI