Conducting a Voter Registration Drive
Laying the Groundwork
Analyze voter registration levels
In Massachusetts, 680,000 eligible citizens of voting age are not registered to vote, creating the voter registration gap. The reasons why people are not registered vary and are complex. For example, many people feel alienated from the political system. Lack of awareness of the need to register or voter registration deadlines, difficulty understanding the registration process, and language barriers can also increase the voter registration gap. Consult leaders active in your community for insights regarding the causes of low registration levels.
Decide on the scope of the drive (a ward, a neighborhood, a campus, etc.). You will need to consider how many volunteers you will need and how to recruit them. Also consider how your drive can best suit your organization’s purposes. Do you want to register a particular group? Are you primarily interested in increasing registration levels in particular wards or precincts or among voters generally? Determine whether you want to register voters through events or door knocking.
Registering voters doesn’t have to be expensive. Voter registration drives typically use most of their funds on materials such as posters and flyers. Tables, chairs, poster board, paper, pens, markers, clipboards, and snacks for volunteers are very useful. Many of these items can be borrowed or provided through in-kind contributions from members of your group, community organizations, congregations, and local businesses.
Volunteers are the life blood of a voter registration drive. Here's our guide for recruiting and coordinating volunteers!
Event-Based Voter Registration Drives
Select a Time and Location
Pick areas and times with high pedestrian traffic, such as shopping areas during the evenings or weekends, busy intersections or bus or train stops during rush hour, parks over the weekend, and local fairs/events. You can contact organizers of local fairs, festivals, and community events to set up a table for voter registration and education. If you want to register voters on private property, contact the owner to gain permission. Make sure you have volunteers who are available during these times of high pedestrian traffic.
Assign or appoint a logistics coordinator/captain. The coordinator should make sure that materials arrive at the site, are collected at the end of volunteer shifts, and make decisions at the site when necessary. Also, assign or appoint a volunteer coordinator to confirm with volunteers before shifts and debrief shifts with volunteers.
Generate publicity before and during the registration drive to communicate when and where your drive is happening and to create an awareness of the importance of registering to vote. Ideally, unregistered voters should hear about the drive as often and from as many different sources as possible. Develop a message about the importance of registering to vote that appeals to the interests of people within the scope of your drive. Make use of press releases to local and speciality media (such as foreign language newspapers), posters and flyers at congregations and community organizations, community events, and social media. Get creative about using art, music, or contests to motivate volunteers. Also, take advantage of events, such as National Voter Registration Day, when mainstream media outlets are covering coordinated efforts.
Registering Voters through Door Knocking
Interested in knocking doors? See our guide here. NOTE: These instructions assume your list includes only registered voters, not unregistered “residents.”
At each address, when you’re done with the voters on the list, always ask for others in the house who are eligible to vote (over 16, US citizen). Register them to vote. Then go through the script with them.
When someone on the list has moved, ask for the eligible voters who do live there. Register them to vote. Then go through the script with them.
If you find someone who insists they’re registered but is not on the list:
They may be registered at another address: urge them to re-register with this address, so they can vote near home.
If they registered very recently, they won’t be on the list. Write down their name & address, to look them up in the database later.
If they’re not registered at another address and did not register recently, urge them to re-register (for example: “Play it safe – there’s no harm in registering twice”). If they still won’t register because they insist they already are: write down their name, address, and phone, to look up later.
Make sure that voters that you registered turn out to vote on Election Day. The best ways to mobilize voters and organize your community are through door knocking and phone banking. Use our Guides on Door Knocking and Phone Banking.