By: NobleHour Special Contributor Latasha Doyle
The 2016 election stands to be one of the most split and divisive elections in recent history, one that could arguably change the landscape of the democratic process forever. With about $1.8 billion raised between all of the candidates and the highly polarized debates now over, the country is torn nearly 50-50 on this vote.
Whichever party you support, you naturally hope the candidate behind your desired platform wins. For some people, though, watching the polls and voting simply isn’t enough. They want to be actively involved in helping their candidate win or want to promote (or prevent) specific legislation becoming law. But where do you begin? How can one person make a difference during an election? No, spirited exchanges on Facebook don’t really help, but engaged volunteering does!
1. Campaign Volunteering
With only one week left before the 2016 election, you may think you’re too late to jump on the campaign bandwagon, but that’s not true! Especially for smaller, local elections, people are always being recruited to make last minute phone calls, hand out flyers, and canvas neighborhoods to help their candidate win. You can volunteer for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or any candidate you wish to see in office. You can also volunteer for your party, whether it’s the Democratic Party, the GOP, the Green Party, or others.
If you’re unsure which candidates or offices are up for election, check out the US Candidate and Election Directory and then search for the volunteer signup pages on your ideal candidate’s website. Whether you’re willing to sign up for any role at your local campaign office or you have a specific skill set (social media, sales calls, or writing, for example), make sure volunteer recruiters know what you can do. From there, you’re ready to start campaigning!
2. Initiative Awareness
Even if you don’t support a specific candidate for POTUS or for local government, there are many initiatives and amendments on each state’s ballot. According to Ballotpedia’s team, “In 2016, 163 statewide ballot measures are certified to appear before voters.” Are you hoping to see a specific bill pass? Are you hoping another ballot measure won’t pass?
Before you start canvassing your neighborhood, arm yourself with knowledge using sites like Ballotpedia.com or Vote411.org for clear and concise information on the measures you can find on your ballot. If you’re wondering how to volunteer in support of or against a specific initiative, reach out to organizations that already have a campaign by simply Googling “Yes on ___” or “No on ___.”
Just like volunteering for your favorite candidate, make sure you utilize your strengths, whether it’s offering to draft emails to supporters, make calls, or use your web design skills. Your skill set could help an initiative gain the traction it needs to be made into law.
3. Registration Volunteering
People have to register to vote but often times they neglect to do so before the deadline. By becoming a registration volunteer, you’re making sure as many people as possible are registered to vote - regardless of their party. The democratic process doesn’t work if there are masses of unrepresented people! You can get involved in local registration drives, which can be found through your local volunteer registration office. Every state is different, so check out your state’s registration deadlines and get out there!
If you’re volunteering as part of an organization, consider joining one of the many campaigns designed to encourage voting. Rock The Vote allows people who sign up to download an app and get registration “interfaces.” These allow you to customize voter registration forms to your own campaigns. They even have everything you need to throw your own “Rock the Vote” registration event with your organization!
4. Election Office Volunteers
One of the most important parts of the electoral process is making sure voters can get in, fill out their ballots, and have their voices heard. If you want to be more hands-on with this process, you can see your state’s requirements from the Election Assistance Commission. Each state has a variety of ways that poll workers can help, but generally poll worker responsibilities include:
- Helping poll crowds, answering questions
- Sealing ballot boxes (if they’re paper)
- Feeding punch card readers (if punch cards are used)
- Manually counting votes (whether paper or punch cards)
Keep in mind that each state has their own requirements and restrictions for poll workers, so pay close attention to the EAC state map. While most election offices and polling places need volunteers building up to Election Day, odds are they will need a huge number of volunteers the day of as well - you’re not too late!
5. Canvas Your Campus
This year, both political campaigns are targeting Millennials (people born between 1980 and 1995) and Gen Z (people born between 1996 and 2010). While most Millennials are in their first jobs and have entered adulthood, the oldest Gen Z’ers are just now entering college. This means that college students’ votes are going to be a huge focus in this election and it will create a great breeding ground for campaigning and civic-minded action.
Whether you’re a parent of a college student or a student yourself, encourage your children and others to get involved. Consider campaigning for College Democrats, College Republicans, the Green Party’s Young Greens, or another group on campus. Encourage fellow students to vote by handing out registration forms or starting a voter registration booth. You could also:
- Help promote local legislation by canvassing the campus
- Host a debate between local candidates
- Create “educational events” to share information on ballot initiatives, candidates, and topics concerning the election
However you want to encourage students to vote and support the democratic process, get creative and get involved!
Your Civic Duty Doesn’t End on Nov. 8th
The one problem with an election year is that most Americans believe their part in the political process begins and ends with educated voting every 2 to 4 years when campaigns begin. However, our civic duties suggest that being engaged in your local, state, and even federal government is a year-round, even lifelong project. Most campaigns take years to get off the ground, whether it’s a candidate for Congress, a potential Presidential candidate, or a ballot initiative. These things don’t crop up overnight!
Is there something you’re passionate about? Is there something you’d like to see on the ballot in the next 2 to 4 years? Join forces with people who feel the same - search online for grassroots initiatives for more education funding, health care, and more. Do you know someone you’d like to see in office? Support their cause and help them build their campaign for the next big election. But more than anything, encourage others to stay involved.
As U.S. citizens, it is our civic duty to actively participate in the democratic process and remain informed about issues involving our communities. Don’t wait until the next election date to sit up and pay attention; start now!
Ready to get involved in your community? Find meaningful opportunities near you with NobleHour!
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she's not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.