New York’s voter turnout is historically low. In the November 2016 general election, New York had the eighth-worst voter turnout in the country. In local elections, when voter turnout is especially low, every vote can make a huge impact. Some local elections come down to a difference of just a few hundred votes or fewer. That means that every single vote matters!
Why Don’t People Vote?
Here are some of the most common reasons:
- Not enough information about where and when local elections are being held
- There are so many candidates that it’s hard to keep up with the news coverage of them all
- New Yorkers tend to move a lot, and sometimes think that there’s less stake in local elections
- Misconceptions that local elections don’t affect your day-to-day life as much as national elections
As a RiseOut advocate, it’s your job to combat misconceptions and apathy and make sure people know that elections help shape the future. If you have an opinion on what should be done, from school board elections to judicial selections, then voting is the first step to making that happen.
Getting People Registered
Now that you’re registered to vote, it’s your turn to encourage others to vote too. Start by familiarizing yourself with the registration process since it’s the first step to voting.
Keeping it Non-Partisan
The Center is a 501(c)(3) organization, which means we can’t endorse any one party or candidate. That means when you do GOTV with The Center, it’s important to keep it non-partisan.
- Don’t suggest which party to register with.
- Don’t suggest which candidate to vote for.
- Don’t talk about party stances or the parties that politicians belong to.
Encourage people to research the candidates and the political parties in New York State (there are eight of them!) on their own before making decisions.
Understanding the Voter Registration Form
To get you started, take a look at this helpful Guide to the New York State Voter Registration Form.
A few tips on filling out the form:
- Item 5, which includes a gender selection, is optional.
- Items 6 and 7 are also optional, although entering your phone and/or email will ensure that you can be contacted in case there’s an issue with your registration form.
- You only have to fill out item 12 if you’re updating your address.
- You don’t have to choose a party when you register, but in order to vote in primary elections in New York State you need to register with the party whose primary you wish to participate in.
- For the general election, you don’t need to be registered with a party to vote for a candidate.
And some gentle reminders:
- If someone is not a U.S. citizen, filling out a voter registration form at all can have serious legal consequences, as it is considered forgery. If someone seems unsure if they can register to vote, ask if they would like to go over their eligibility.
- Don’t pressure anyone to tell you why they are not eligible if they do not want to share that information.
- There are many other ways to be civically engaged beyond voting. If someone is unable to register, encourage them join a political campaign of their choosing or help register other people to vote. If they live in New York City, they can also join a local community board or get involved in participatory budgeting.
Phone and Text Banking
It takes effort and persistence to convince some people to vote. That’s why phone and text banking are effective ways to get more people to participate in the voting process. Conducting a phone or text bank starts conversations with real people and shares information on the issues, and reminds people when an election deadline is coming up or where their polling location is. All of this helps motivate voters and increase participation.
You can start with your family, friends, coworkers and other personal contacts. Brainstorm a list of everyone you can contact about voting and make the call.
Here are some phone/text banking best practices:
- Make your calls/texts at times when people are most likely to be available and thinking about the election.
- Inform them about LGBTQ issues that are important to you in an upcoming election, but remain non-partisan.
- Be friendly and ready to answer questions about the voting process in New York. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can direct them to the New York State Board of Elections website at ny.gov/.
- Help voters figure out a plan to get to the polls on election day. Be ready to talk through transportation options with them.
The most effective way to get voters to the polls and make sure they’re up to speed on LGBTQ issues is to talk to them directly. However, because of COVID-19, we recommend digital canvassing. Remote organizing allows you to engage your community, while still following social distancing guidelines to keep you and others safe.
- Set up a Zoom meeting or a Google Hangout. These platforms are free to use and allow you to reach multiple people at once.
- Make a script to guide your conversation. It could include questions about whether the person is registered to vote and if they know when the upcoming elections are.
- Be mindful of the people you are speaking with. Be respectful of those who have different identities and viewpoints from you.
- Talk to as many people as possible. Be confident, supportive and encouraging. Don’t forget to smile!