Get Out the Vote: Three Actions To Take Ahead of Election Day

Three megaphones

Mark your calendars. Election day is next Tuesday, Nov. 2. While 2021 is considered an “off-year” for elections, and it may feel significantly less intense than last year’s general election, there are still crucial races taking place around the country.

From statewide elections in New Jersey and Virginia to mayoral races and New York’s ballot measures, read more about the “The Races We’re Watching in 2021.” For an exhaustive list of elections happening this year, and on what date, make sure to take a look at Ballotpedia’s election calendar or check in with your state or local elections offices. 

In this piece, we walk you through the main steps to take these last few days before Election Day to make sure your voice gets heard. And once you figure out your own voting plan, we outline important actions to help others get out and vote.

Get informed and make a plan to vote.

Some states won’t let you use your phone while voting, so make sure to research all the candidates and ballot measures beforehand. It is often helpful to look up a sample ballot in advance. New Jersey and Virginia are the only states with gubernatorial elections in 2021, with additional key races for other state officials and legislators challenging their Democratic trifectas. Other races to look out for include: two special elections to the U.S. House of Representatives in Ohio and a primary race in Florida’s 20th District; a handful of critical judicial elections in Pennsylvania; and mayoral, city council and other municipal races in numerous cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Detroit, New York and Seattle.

However, there’s more on the ballot than just candidates. If you live in Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas or Washington, there is at least one statewide ballot measure to vote on (Louisiana will weigh in on four ballot measures on Nov. 13). Additionally, be on the lookout for any local ballot measures.

If you haven’t done so already, make a plan for yourself — whether that means voting by mail, early in-person or in-person on Election Day. If you vote by mail, nearly all states allow you to track the progress of your ballot; you can find state-specific tracking services here

Visit I Will Vote to find other state-specific steps, deadlines and voting options. In Virginia, for example, early voting ends this Saturday at 5 pm. 

If you plan to vote in person, know your rights. In 20 states, you can register to vote on the same day that you cast your vote. 

If you plan to go to the polls in person, remember that you have rights as a voter. You have the right to privately cast your ballot without interference, the right to stay in line (even when the polls close) and the right to an accessible polling place or to receive in-person assistance. There are several reasons why you may be handed a provisional ballot — if that happens, confirm why you’re not eligible for a regular ballot and make sure you understand the next steps you must take to have your vote counted. If you feel that someone is trying to prevent you or anyone else at your polling location from voting, call the Election Protection Hotline or the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Voter Assistance Hotline.

If you live in one of the 20 states that permit same-day voter registration, sometimes called Election Day registration (except in North Carolina, where same-day registration only applies during early voting periods), you can register and vote at the same time at either a local election office or the polling place itself. Colorado, Maine and Washington are three states with statewide elections next week where you can register on Election Day. 

You can read more about the do’s and don’ts for in-person voting in our Explainer on what is and isn’t allowed at polling places. Once you figure out your plan to vote and feel knowledgeable about your rights, focus on helping friends and neighbors get out and vote.

Off-year elections suffer from notoriously low turnout. For the next few days, you can help through phone banking, text banking and door knocking.

No matter where you live, you can make calls in support of Democrats across the country. After you sign up to phone bank, you can expect some form of brief training from the event organizers before you are set up on a dialer. A script is always given to you, so you don’t have to worry about what to say. To find phone bank opportunities, visit the DNC’s mobilize page, or identify a race where you want to make an impact and research opportunities from there. If you prefer not to speak on the phone, try text banking by joining the DNC’s text out the vote team or text ORGANIZE to 43367 for more ways to get involved.

If you live in an area with an upcoming election, consider signing up for a door-knocking shift around your neighborhood — following any COVID-19 protocols, of course. Face-to-face, personal conversations are consistently shown to be one of the most effective ways to mobilize voters. As with phone banking, organizers don’t leave you to figure everything out on your own. When you sign up to knock doors, you should expect guidance from organizers on where to go and how to engage the people you meet. 

If you are based in Virginia (or in D.C.), Virginia Democrats especially need your help to get out the vote and keep the state blue. Here’s a list of target candidates in competitive districts who need all the support they can get. And in the race for the governorship, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) faces Trump-endorsed Republican Glenn Youngkin. The stakes are high in this closely-contested race — Democratic governors, including McAuliffe, have expanded voting opportunities and passed other progressive policies in recent years while Youngkin aims to turn back the clock. To get involved, visit the Virginia Turnout Project for all GOTV opportunities.

2021 is no less crucial than other election years — races will determine public policy outcomes with direct implications on the lives of many and provide important clues about the direction of our country.

For more ways to get involved, visit the other action pages for state Democratic parties, including: