Getting registered to vote—and actually showing up to the polls—is an essential, effective way to participate in politics. But with the midterms getting closer (Nov. 6, everyone!), it's also important to know about the handful of other ways to get involved. No matter if you have five minutes or five hours to spare, find how you can get engaged.
Talk to your friends and family about their voting plans.
It might seem too easy, but leveraging your own connections is one of the most powerful things you can do. Jeanette Senecal, senior director of mission impact at the League of Women Voters, says to make sure you ask your friends and family about when and where they're going on election day or direct them on how to get registered: "Research says if someone has thought through what their plan is on election day... that increases likelihood that someone will actually go and vote."
Post on social media.
Senecal also says small things, like posting a selfie with your voter registration card or voting sticker, is helpful. Lucinda Guinn, the vice president of campaigns at EMILY's List, says that once you find a candidate you want to support, post about them on social media to get the word out: "Help tell their stories and post opportunities for other people to get involved."
Donate to a candidate or a related organization.
If you’re extra short on time, donating is another easy way to invest in a campaign and help get people you support into office. If you’re unsure of a campaign, organizations like EMILY’s List, which helps elect pro-choice, Democratic women, or League of Women Voters, which encourages women to be informed, active participants in government, also accept donations.
30 Minutes to 1 Hour
Volunteer for a campaign.
Volunteering for a campaign can often seem like a heavy lift, but in reality, it can work any numbers of ways. According to Guinn, there's always something happening that candidates need help with, whether that's going door to door talking to voters or just dropping off food for volunteers and staffers who are no doubt working around the clock.
Volunteers can also phone bank and talk to targeted voters, which can sometimes be done from the comfort of your own home. Guinn says campaigns will send you a link that brings up a list of voters and give you talking points so you can feel knowledgable on the issues.
Volunteer with a political organization.
If there's not a campaign in your area you're interested in, you can also find a local chapter of the League of Women Voters. According to Senecal, chapters help register voters, host debates, table at festivals, and inform voters about certain ballot initiatives.
Get involved in local politics beyond the midterms.
It's easy to know about national and state elections, but EMILY's List also encourages women to focus locally by attending city council meetings and paying attention to "off-year elections." In some places, there are municipal elections that start as early as March 2019. Guinn suggests checking out the campaigns in your area to see if there are still volunteer opportunities that extend past November.
A Few Hours a Week
Become a volunteer leader on a campaign.
If you have a few hours to spare, consider stepping up your volunteering game. Naureen Akhter started volunteering for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign in February 2018 and became an official staffer in August 2018. "My call to action was really November 2016 when my community and basically my future and my family’s future was under threat by right-wing groups, and so I wanted to do my part to elect responsible and talented leaders who would be vocal in taking our country in the right direction," she told ELLE.com
At first, she just offered to help Ocasio-Cortez get some signatures from Jackson Heights, which then snowballed into her becoming the Jackson Heights Field Captain, executing three events per week. She thought she’d only attend one a week, but ended up going to all of them when she saw that there needed to be an organizer present from the start. What she thought would be two to three hours a week ended up being nine to 10 hours a week. "Once you really find a thing you care about, it’s easy to carve out the time in what can otherwise feel like a very hectic schedule," she says. Now, Akhter works as the campaign's director of organizing.
Learn more about running for office.
If this midterm cycle has made you consider running for office, Guinn says a good way to start is by helping on campaigns in your local community in order to learn the ropes and make connections: "It’s so important to help [you] build [your] own networks, getting to be a part of the communities that are helping these ladies run right now."
Become a poll worker.
On election day, you can volunteer as a poll worker and ensure that voting runs smoothly for those in your area. However, according to Senecal, you generally have to go through a training process prior to being a poll worker, so if you're interested, be sure to look into it in advance of the actual day.