About 62% of Americans think the 2018 elections are more important than past midterm elections in their lifetime.
It’s time for Americans to speak now — this time by voting.
Taylor Swift used her platform at the American Music Awards this week to urge the audience to vote in next month’s midterms. “This award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people, and you know what else is voted on by the people?” she said during her artist of the year acceptance speech. “It is the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Get out and vote. I love you guys.”
Swift’s civic-engagement plug came days after she broke her long-held political silence in an Instagram post, endorsing two Tennessee Democrats and encouraging her fans to register through Vote.org. The site saw a surge in registrations among the 18 to 24 and 25 to 29 demographics. And while October always sees a pre-deadline spike and this one can’t be directly attributed to Swift, the site acknowledged, “Taylor Swift’s visibility on this issue is driving a lot of coverage of voter registration and it’s reaching many of her fans who would not otherwise be following news like this.”
Most people, of course, are not Taylor Swift. But plenty of other Americans — no matter their politics — feel a similar urgency around November’s races: 62% of Americans surveyed by Vanity Fair’s the Hive, theSkimm and SurveyMonkey said they believed this midterm election was more important than past midterms in their lifetimes, and 67% said they were absolutely certain to vote next month.
“You never know what issues will face you in a year or two years or four years — so you need to make sure that your representatives are good proxies for your positions,” Jennifer Lawless, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, told Moneyish.
Here’s expert advice on how you, as an ordinary citizen, can gin up interest and get out the vote:
Start with your immediate circle. “Make sure your other family members are voting. … Pass the word at your church, your community center, but also on social media,” Brian Miller, the executive director of Nonprofit VOTE, told Moneyish. “For an individual to be really promoting the vote, it needs to start with their own circles of friends and relatives. That’s the most effective place they’re going to be.”
“What we know is that we influence the people in our lives — we’re the biggest influencers of them when it comes to voting,” Stephanie Young, the communications director for When We All Vote, told Moneyish. “Our family, our friends, our communities listen to people that they love and trust the most about these things.”
Check that people you know are registered. States’ deadlines vary — the Oct. 9 cutoff in more than a dozen states has passed, for example — so make sure your friends and family aren’t tuning into the election too late to actually vote. Only 15 states and the District of Columbia allow Election Day registration. “It’s vital right now to look at states that your friends are in, look at those dates, and then encourage them to register if they’re not,” Raven Brooks, the chief operating officer of Vote.org, told Moneyish.
Get people informed. A lot of people have no idea what or who is on the ballot during a midterm year, and are essentially “walking blind” unless they follow politics closely, Miller said. Voters feeling like they’re not educated enough “can be a hindrance that doesn’t need to be there,” added Andrew Feldman, a spokesperson for Rock the Vote.
So connect people with intel: Vote411.org, operated by the League of Women Voters, provides general and state-specific ballot information, candidate data and personalized voting guides. And BallotReady.org lets you explore the candidates and referendums on your personal ballot, then save your ballot choices to bring into the voting booth. Find the resource with the most complete information on your friends’ or family members’ ballots, Miller said, and then distribute that link.
Make voting sound like “something that everybody is doing,” said Brooks, rather than lamenting weak voter turnout. Instead of the “‘woe is us’ message about how people don’t vote,” Miller agreed, focus on positive messaging that emphasizes how they can be agents of change and help shape their own future. (Research has shown that low voter turnout messaging can demotivate people from voting.)
Apply social pressure through public shaming, Lawless suggested. A 2008 study found that mailings that promised to publicize someone’s voter turnout to their household or neighbors increased turnout. Subsequent studies have suggested that less abrasive approaches, like thanking people for voting in a previous election, can also be effective.
Make a voting plan. One 2010 study found that adding a plan-making component to get-out-the-vote phone calls — setting a time, as well as identifying where they’d be coming from and what they would be doing beforehand — helped increase the likelihood of voting during the 2008 presidential election. Plan out where you’ll be voting, how you’ll get there and whether you’ll need to ask your boss for time off, said Democracy Works director of communications Brandon Naylor. Will you make time before work, during your lunch break or after work?
Naylor personally suggested taking a vacation day, carpooling with friends to each person’s polling place, and then grabbing brunch or seeing a movie afterward. “Make it a holiday so you’re taking the time necessary to engage in your civic responsibility,” he said.
Drive home that every vote counts. “There’s tons of examples from 2016 and other elections where we’ve seen very, very slim margins,” Young said, “and I think that people don’t realize that there are others making choices for them.” She quoted Michelle Obama’s appeal at a recent When We All Vote rally in Las Vegas: “Not voting is like letting your grandma pick your clothes out,” the former First Lady said. “Now, no offense to Grandma. … When you don’t vote, that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re letting other people make some really key decisions about the life you’re going to live.”
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