This guide provides some easy steps to running a successful voter registration campaign. Read on, and remember that the AAUW public policy staff is here to help — consider them your resource and sounding board. If you’re not already in touch with them, please e-mail VoterEd@aauw.org.
Get Started Planning Your Registration Drive
The first step is to set reasonable goals and develop a plan for the voter registration drive. Goals and a plan enable you to work strategically and gauge your progress. When you set your goals, consider the following questions:
- How many people do you want to register?
- Where should you target people to register — do you want to focus on certain neighborhoods or parts of town with historically low voter turnout, underrepresented groups, or high-traffic areas that will allow you to reach a greater number of people? Because AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, AAUW states or branches may not target any voter registration efforts at members of a particular political party or at individuals likely to vote for partisan candidates who support AAUW issues.
- How will this voter registration drive further the goals of your state or branch voter turnout campaign?
Once you have your voter registration event in mind, let us know about your plans through the upcoming event form so we can send you materials and help support your event.
Know Your State’s Rules on Voter Registration
Get state voter registration rules from your local or state elections office. (A directory of websites and contact details for each state elections office can be found on the National Association of State Election Directors website (PDF). Make sure each volunteer at your AAUW voter registration drive understands these regulations before you start registering voters.
Ask the local or state elections office these important questions:
- How long before the election do voters need to be registered to be eligible to vote? (Remember that there are primary and general elections, each with different voter registration deadlines.)
- What is the age requirement for volunteers registering people to vote?
- Do voters need to declare a party affiliation?
- What are the rules for people who have been convicted of a felony?
- How must registration forms be submitted to election officials?
- What is the required length of residency prior to an individual registering to vote?
- Are college students eligible to register to vote in the locality and state where they are enrolled?
- Is there a required training for volunteers to be able to register voters?
Be sure to familiarize yourself with “Obey the Law: AAUW Guidelines for Election Activities” in the Branch Public Policy Chair Manual before beginning a voter registration drive. That chapter of the manual sets forth the policies that all AAUW states and branches must follow during any voter registration drive.
Legal restrictions prevent the use of advocacy materials, such as voter guides or issue fact sheets, in conjunction with a voter registration drive.
Recruit and Train Volunteers
When you know what your goals are, you can determine how many volunteers you will need and the locations you want to target. Voter registration drives can attract women who are looking for ways to become more involved in your branch or who aren’t even aware that they would be interested in AAUW membership. Let people know that your branch is looking for extra help — who knows, you might end up with more volunteers and new members!
Once you have your volunteers, you’ll want to train them so they feel comfortable registering voters and confident that they are following the voter registration rules in your community. Training can be easy — and fun! You could hold a voter registration training as part of an upcoming branch meeting, or host the volunteers for a small training party in your home.
In your volunteer training session, review the registration form and rules, discuss messages about the importance of voter registration, and practice asking people to register. Make sure volunteers have plenty of voter registration forms.
Before the first voter registration drive, identify a volunteer to be responsible for getting additional voter registration forms and coordinating times, dates, and locations for registration drives. Don’t forget to assign someone to return the completed forms by the deadline. Speaking of forms …
Which Form Do I Use to Register Voters?
Remember to check with your local election officials to see if you need to use a county- or state-specific form. If a certain form is not required, you should be able to use whatever form is provided by your local election official or the national voter registration form. Most states accept the national form, which is available on the Election Assistance Commission website. If multiple languages are spoken in areas where you are conducting your drive, request voter registration forms in those languages.
Just like getting people to vote, registering people is best done through direct, personal, targeted contact. The following ideas are creative ways to reach out to the community:
- Send volunteers with clipboards to places where large groups of people congregate — malls, movie theaters, libraries, neighborhood festivals, rallies, farmer’s markets, etc. As always, be sure to check the rules for each location before planning a voter registration event there.
- Set up a table on the campus of an AAUW college/university partner or other university, college, or community college in your area. Did you know that federal law (the 1998 Higher Education Amendments) requires colleges and universities to make a good-faith effort to distribute in-state voter registration forms to students? By working with your local AAUW college/university partner to register students, you are helping the institution serve its students and demonstrating AAUW’s value to our college/university partners. (P.S. Check out AAUW’s tabling how-to guide for tips to make your tabling event a success!)
- Use a phone bank to contact branch and national members to let them know you will be registering people to vote. Be sure to ask all members if they are registered to vote. This is also a great way to recruit volunteers for voter registration drives and other activities in your get-out-the-vote campaign.
- Hold an issue forum on a topic important to your community. Work with coalition partners and other community groups to publicize the event, and make a voter registration pitch at the end of each event. Remember, you can register people to vote at any time of the year. For more information, check out our guide on how to put together an issue forum.
Remember to keep it personal — talk to people about why voting is important and what issues are at stake in the upcoming elections. When you register people, keep track of their information so you can follow up with them before the next election. The people you register will be natural targets for other aspects of your Woman-to-Woman Voter Turnout Campaign, such as issue and candidate forums.
Follow Up with Newly Registered Voters
Know the laws in your state, and be sure to turn in voter registration forms to the correct place by the deadline.
A good Woman-to-Woman Voter Turnout Campaign stays in touch with its targets throughout the year. Contact newly registered voters a few weeks after they register to ensure that they received a confirmation of their voter registration, know the date of upcoming elections, and know where to vote and what to bring to the polls.
Don’t forget to let us know how your voter registration drive went by filling out this form. Your feedback helps us highlight the best events in AAUW publications and capture AAUW’s nationwide impact.