Exercising the right to vote is crucial to maintaining a fair democracy. Voting enables citizens to:
Support policies and causes that matter to them
Promote institutions and officials committed to creating a more just society for all residents.
Participate in he democratic process
How a voice in who represents them
Tells others around you that you care!
While we tend to focus on the Presidential elections held every four years, the reality is that even during those elections only about half of eligible US residents vote and the numbers are even lower in off-year elections and primaries.
While there are many reasons why people either do not or cannot vote, too often we hear from family and friends that they worry that their vote just doesn’t matter. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth!
Share Why You Vote
Does voting mater to you? Are you afraid of the reaction you might get if you bring it up with family members? Don’t worry! There are ways to engage on the topic that:
Bridge party politics
Honor the other person’s individuality
And promote a more civically engaged electorate.
If you are planning to vote and want to make sure your family and friends are too, use some of the resources below to help initiate a caring, fruitful, and uplifting conversation on the importance of voting and then encourage them to vote early.
Talking about politics can make people defensive, so start the conversation with simple questions like, “Are you registered to vote?” or “Are you voting by mail this year?” By asking questions about the basic act of voting, you can avoid the confrontation that may come with discussing specific candidates and policies.
If they say they don’t know how to register, don’t have the right ID, or don’t have transportation to the polls, offer them help or guide them to sites like this one! Even if they say they plan to vote, ask them to check their registration status.
If they’ve decided not to vote this election, ask them why.
Listen Attentively and Identify Their Key Points
Even if you disagree with what your friend is saying, give them your full attention. This is essential to having a productive conversation. Instead of zoning out to prepare your counterargument or interrupting with your point of view, let them finish their entire thought.
It’s also important to pay attention to the big themes and emotional content of their words to understand their thought process. There’s often a compelling reason why they don’t vote. According to the Knight Foundation’s 100 Million Project, some people don’t vote because they don’t like the candidates on the ballot; others think their vote doesn’t matter or the system is corrupt; and still others attribute their decision not to vote to their lack of interest, time, or knowledge of the candidates.
By identifying your friend’s objections to voting and addressing them empathetically, you will have a higher chance of getting your point across.
Respond to Their Concerns With Facts
Depending on your friend’s reason for not voting, share information that directly responds to their concerns.
If they think their vote doesn’t matter, tell them about the elections that were determined by an extremely narrow margin, and in some cases by a single vote. If they say they don’t like any of the candidates, ask them to focus on issues and policies instead. Let them know that their vote can have a direct impact on the issues they care about.
In order to make sure your conversation leads to action, ask your friend for a commitment before you part ways. End the interaction by asking your friend when they plan to register to vote, and if they plan to vote from home or at the polls. Tell them that you’ll check in on their progress as deadlines come up. You can even make plans to go to the polls together or grab lunch after voting as another way to hold them accountable.