How to Talk to Your Friends About Voting
Here are some tips to make conversations about voting easier and more effective.
If you’ve already checked your voter registration status and registered to vote, and are now wondering how you can get more involved leading up to the 2020 election, this article is for you. There’s still so much more you can do to help ensure a fair election and robust democracy.
One way to take action is to increase voter turnout by talking with your friends about voting. Despite its ostensible democractic values, the US has much lower voter turnout rates than other countries. In recent elections, about 60% of eligible voters participated in presidential elections, and about 40% in midterm elections, according to Elect Project.
By talking to your friends about voting, you can help increase broader civic engagement. Here are some tips and guidelines that will make these conversations about voting easier and more effective.
Start With a Simple Question
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 organizations like HeadCount that provide state-specific information on voting. 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.
If they are too busy to learn about what’s on the ballot, direct them to nonpartisan resources that provide easier ways to get informed. Ballotpedia’s Ballot Measure Scorecard provides digestible information on ballot initiatives or amendments that you can expect to see on Election Day. And Ballot Ready helps you make informed choices by explaining referendums and comparing candidates.
Finally, if your friend says they don’t have time to hit the polls or are afraid of voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, inform them of vote-by-mail and early voting options.
Establish a Plan and Promise to Follow Up
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.
Increasing voter turnout benefits all Americans because it helps to guarantee a robust democracy that actually represents the interests of the general public. So start striking up conversations about voting with the people around you. With these tips and guidelines at hand, you will be able to convince more non-voters to become engaged citizens.
Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to launch Just Vote, a campaign mobilizing young Americans to register to vote ahead of the 2020 election and beyond. As part of the campaign, your favorite artists and entertainers are offering exclusive experiences, performances, and memorabilia — and they can only be unlocked once eligible voters check their voter registration status. Learn more about Just Vote and how you can take action here.