To Defeat Trump, Register Your Friends and Family to Vote — Now
A step-by-step process for making sure no voters fall through the cracks.
You’re registered to vote. Now the most important thing you can do is make sure your personal network is registered too.
Every election, we are told to register to vote, and with good reason: in a country with one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the world, voter registration is a major driver of election outcomes.
But registering yourself is not enough. You also need to make sure your friends and family get registered. Why? Because if they think like you, their votes will amplify your voice and increase the likelihood that Donald Trump and his enablers in Congress are removed from office.
It’s especially important to do this now — during the pandemic — because organizations dedicated to voter registration are having a much harder time doing their work. Most of the time these groups find unregistered voters at public events or by standing on street corners and that’s no longer feasible. Now more than ever it’s up to us individually to reach out to the people we know to make sure they’re registered.
Before you run out and start telling people to get registered, however, take the time to review the following step-by-step process. Just posting messages on Facebook or texting your friends isn’t enough to overcome systemic barriers to voter registration. Take the time to learn these best practices to ensure that your efforts actually change outcomes.
How to do it:
1. Make a list
You have a large personal network and it’s probably not efficient to contact everyone you know since many of them are already registered. Instead, write down the 10–25 anti-Trump people in your network who are least likely to be on the voting rolls and plan to reach out to them. (If you’re not sure they’re anti-Trump, but you suspect so, just ask.)
Our political system is systematically biased against voters with certain demographic characteristics. When thinking about who to contact, pay particular attention to people who belong to the following categories:
- Not a college graduate
- Person of color
- Limited mobility
- Live in a state where it is hard to register and vote
- Recently moved or move frequently
- Live abroad
2. Reach out via whatever means feels most comfortable
One key to effective voter registration is knowing how best to communicate with the person you’re trying to reach. In this case, I recommend contacting them through whatever means you are using to stay in touch during the pandemic. Do you normally text? Exchange comments on Facebook? Email? Phone? Zoom? Then use that method.
If, like me, you are reaching out to folks you almost never contact directly, use whatever method feels most appropriate. I see the people I’m targeting on Facebook a lot even though we don’t chat often so I’m using the platform’s Messenger app to reach out. If the medium you choose doesn’t work, try something else.
3. Ask them to check their registration
Instead of asking people if they are registered, ask them to verify their registration. There are a few reasons for this approach.
First, a lot of people think they’re registered when they aren’t. Sometimes this is just a mistake on their part, but often it’s because of systematic voter purging by states. If people resist verifying because they already know they’re registered, tell them about purging and ask them to “double check”.
The second reason for this approach is that it’s an easy ask. That’s important because it will be hard for the other person to refuse. And, once you get them to take this simple step, it will be easier to get them to take the hard step of getting registered.
How you structure the ask is also important. In my digital outreach to friends and family, I use the following message:
Hi [Name], I’m really worried about defeating Donald Trump in November so I’m contacting my [family/friends] to make sure everyone’s registered to vote. Would you mind taking a few minutes to check your registration at the link below? I did it already and it only took me about two minutes. I’ll check back tomorrow to see if everything went ok. Thanks for doing this for me! Hugs, Karin
Then I attach this link: https://www.rockthevote.org/how-to-vote/am-i-registered-to-vote/.
Check Your Voter Registration Status - Rock the Vote
Am I registered to vote at my current address? Fill out this quick and easy form and we'll look up your voter…
Like the one above, all of your asks should have five components:
- Why you are asking (“I’m really worried about defeating Trump.”)
- The ask itself with link (“Would you check to make sure you’re registered?”)
- Personal example (“I did it already and it took two minutes.”)
- Promise to follow up (“I’ll check back tomorrow to see how it went.”)
- Personalized thank you (“Thanks for doing this for me!”)
Step four is essential in any situation where folks aren’t checking their registration in real time. Otherwise, they might not do what you ask (even if they say they will and intend to). Research shows people are much more likely to fulfill your request if they know you’re going to check in with them afterwards.
In most cases, you will need to check back in to make sure folks actually verified their registration. When you follow-up, don’t just ask if they did it. Instead, ask them to tell you what the results were. That way you’ll know whether or not you need to help them get registered too.
If they tell you their registration was confirmed, skip to step six. If they tell you it wasn’t, continue to step five.
5. Help them get registered
When you find someone who isn’t registered, congratulate yourself — you’re about to make a real difference, not just in this election but in every election for the foreseeable future.
At this point, you have to do some work. As I said at the outset, the electoral system in the U.S. is designed to make it hard for people to exercise their voting rights and a big part of that is putting hurdles in the way of voter registration. Your job now is to make it as easy as possible for your friend or family member to register by helping them navigate these hurdles.
Begin by finding out what it will take for them to get registered by going to Vote.gov and looking up how to register in their state.
Many states have online registration now, but other states still don’t. Be prepared to encounter logistical headaches along the way such as:
- ID requirements
- Proof of citizenship
- Language barriers
For people who live in places without online registration, often the best option is to send them to the Register to Vote page at RocktheVote.org. They can fill out the form online, print it, sign it, and mail it in. Just be sure to check the specific requirements for each state too to make sure they follow their local laws.
As you can imagine, a lot of these forms never actually make it into the mail. You’ll need to offer assistance filling it out and follow up to make sure it actually gets sent. And, later, check in again to ensure the registration is confirmed.
6. Say thanks
Once you’ve confirmed your friend or family member is registered, thank them. A good thank you will let them know:
- What it means to you personally
- What it means to the future of the country
- You understand the effort it took for them to check/register
For example, my digital thank you looks like this:
“Thanks, [Name], for taking the time to do this. I know it’s kind of a hassle but it really means a lot to me to know that everybody who wants to vote against Trump in November will be able to do so.”
7. Let them know you’ll remind them to vote
To seal the deal, follow your thank you with a hint of what you’ll be asking for next: their vote. This will set the stage for your voting ask and make it more likely you’ll get them to turnout when the time comes.
You’ve just done more than most people to make sure Trump doesn’t get reelected in the fall. Take some time to celebrate your accomplishment in whatever way makes you feel good. And, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back publicly too with a social media post about what you just did too. (As an added bonus, your example is likely to encourage other folks to do the same.)
What if everyone is already registered?
You may find that your network is already saturated with registered voters. If so, great! Now help other people reach out to their contacts.
It’s easy to be lulled into complacency and think you have more time than you actually do. There is a lot that needs to get done before November 3rd, but making sure every voter who opposes Trump is registered is job one. Start on that project now, before it’s too late, so you can put the rest of your energy into persuasion during August and September and turnout during October and November.
As of this writing, there are only 141 days until the election. The time to act is NOW. We can’t afford another four years of Donald Trump.
About the Author
Dr. Karin Tamerius is the founder of Smart Politics, a former psychiatrist, and an expert in political psychology who specializes in teaching Democrats (and other left-leaning folks) how to communicate more productively and persuasively with people across the political spectrum. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.