Voter registration drive kit

A collection of guidelines and materials for community groups registering voters

Voter registration drives are a popular way to promote community involvement and civic participation around the country. Materials for registration drives are plentiful, but many of the materials available are prepared by political campaigns or interest groups.

Individuals and organizations need access to registration documents, outreach materials, and guidelines originating from a nonpartisan, trusted source.

This kit provides a collection of registration drive materials that community groups may use comfortably and that any election official may provide to community groups with confidence.

What you'll need

  • Computer with internet access
  • Printer (to make posters)
  • 3-4 staff members to work the drive
  • Voter registration forms for your state
  • Office materials like 2 clipboards, 10 pens, and so on

Table of contents

  1. Things to know about registration drives
  2. Planning your drive


Things to know about registration drives

As you start to plan your registration drive, it’s important for you to first get familiar with state laws on the issue.

Like other aspects of voting, the laws governing voter registration drives vary significantly from state to state. Some states have absolutely no laws around these drives, while others have much more restrictive legislation. What’s more, these laws have been challenged in court and are therefore in a state of flux in some areas.

For these reasons, people interested in voter registration drives should review the laws in their area. A good place to begin is the website for your state election office.

To find your state election authority, you can start with this handy USA.gov directory of state election offices. Just select your state or territory and you’ll be taken directly to the office’s website.

The following are common issues that you should consider as you prepare a voter registration drive.

Do those of us conducting the drive need to undergo training?

In most states, people and organizations participating in registration drives do not need to attend training before they can pound the pavement to register new voters. But other states require special training in order to run registration drives. In still other states, training is available but is considered optional.

Do we need to register with the state?

In most states, anyone may get involved in a voter registration drive. However, in some states people who wish to register voters must provide their information and register with the state.

How do we get voter registration forms?

In most areas, groups participating in voter registration drives may receive a small number of voter registration forms (perhaps 25 or so) without needing to formally request them and without providing information about the drive they’re planning.

To obtain a larger number of forms (perhaps 100), the people and organizations seeking them must submit a formal request. Such requests often include a sworn affidavit affirming that the registration forms will be used only in accordance with established local or state guidelines.

When do we need to return completed registration forms?

Many states require registration forms to be submitted within an established deadline. Among these, most attach criminal penalties to breaking these deadlines. For this reason they should be taken quite seriously. In most states, return deadlines are about 10 days.

Planning your drive

  • Assemble a staff for your drive. It’s nice to have 3-4 people working at a registration drive – enough people so that you can keep each other company, you can take turns taking a break, and so on. Make an effort to assemble a team that’s diverse in terms of age, race, gender, and ability so that your registration drive reflects your community. Members of the public will be more likely to talk to your group if they see someone who looks like them.
  • Make sure you have enough documents and materials. If you need to submit a request for a large number of registration forms, do so. In addition to documents, bring plenty of pens, clipboards, and so on.
  • Plan for practical considerations by bringing food, device chargers, chairs, umbrellas, and so on. Ensure that there are restrooms nearby that you may use. You don’t want to have to cut your drive short just because you forgot something.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the basics of running a registration drive, you may be ready to start publicizing and preparing your registration event.

There are additional guidelines and best practices that you should review, but we’ll look at those later, once you’ve spread the word about your drive and are gearing up for the big day.

Table of contents

  1. Publicizing your registration drive
  2. Reaching out through email
  3. Reaching out through Facebook
  4. Reaching out through Twitter
  5. Using free social media graphics
  6. Creating eye-catching posters
  7. Guidelines for voter registration drives

Publicizing your registration drive 

If you want your voter registration drive to be as successful as possible, you have to tell people about it! It’s true that some people will be drawn in when they see your table in person, but promoting your drive through communications outreach will expand your reach beyond the physical location of the drive.

With registration drives, outreach has the ability to serve a dual function. It can drive traffic to an in-person drive, and it can encourage people to register online. How you use your outreach will depend on your goals, of course.

Included here are materials to help you get started spreading the word about your drive, using a number of different venues and media platforms. When contemplating communications campaigns, people are sometimes hesitant because they’re not sure what to say or how to say it. These materials — scripts, graphics, and poster templates — are provided to get you over that hurdle. They’re designed for you to take ownership of and make your own by adding your custom information.

As you prepare your registration drive and start to publicize it, keep in mind National Voter Registration Day. Its website has great tips and resources to help individuals and organizations working to register voters.

Reaching out through email

Many community groups and organizations maintain email lists that they use to send updates or distribute a newsletter to their members. If your group has an email list, you can use it to send a message about your registration drive.

If you don’t have an organization list to work with, consider sending an email to the people you have in your personal contacts list.

Either way, make sure to be considerate and responsible whenever you’re sending a mass email so that your message isn’t a nuisance to the people receiving it.

Sample email scripts

Sample email script: “Organization”

Hi [insert name],

Voting is one of the most important things we can do to effect change in our communities and ensure accountability among our leadership. As you may know, our organization has a special stake in civic participation because [insert how voting impacts your organization].

Unfortunately, millions of Americans aren’t registered to vote. Are you one of them?

Voter registration is easy and takes just a few minutes. We’re holding a registration drive on [insert date] at [insert location] between [insert start time] and [insert end time]. We hope you’ll stop by to register to vote or update your registration!

Did you know you can also register to vote or update your registration info online? You can check your eligibility and begin the process here: [insert link to state registration website]. The deadline to register is [insert deadline].

We also hope you’ll tell your friends and family about our registration drive! Please forward this email to 5 friends who might need to register or re-register.

Thank you for making our registration drive a success!

-[Your Name]

[Your Organization]

[your contact information]

Sample email script: “A big election”

Hi [insert name],

Lately it feels like election news has been hard to escape! Even though the lead-up has been long, Election Day is going to be here before you know it.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans won’t be able to vote on Election Day because they aren’t registered or because they’ve moved and haven’t updated their registration status. Are you one of them?

Voter registration is easy and takes just a few minutes. We’re holding a registration drive on [insert date] at [insert location] between [insert start time] and [insert end time]. We hope you’ll stop by to register to vote or update your registration!

Did you know you can also register to vote or update your registration info online? You can check your eligibility and begin the process here: [insert link to state registration website]. The deadline to register is [insert deadline].

We also hope you’ll tell your friends and family about our registration drive! Please forward this email to 5 friends who might need to register or re-register.

Thank you for making our registration drive a success! Make sure to come out and vote on Election Day.

-[Your Name]

[Your Organization]

[your contact information]

Sample email script: “Need to update”

Hi [insert name],

Have you moved recently? Changed your name? Do you want to declare or change your political party?

If so, you’ll need to update your voter registration so that you’re ready to vote in the next election!

Updating your registration is easy and takes just a few minutes. We’re holding a registration drive on [insert date] at [insert location] between [insert start time] and [insert end time]. We hope you’ll stop by to update your registration.

Did you know you can also register to vote or update your registration info online? You can check your eligibility and begin the process here: [insert link to state registration website]. The deadline to register is [insert deadline].

We also hope you’ll tell your friends and family about our registration drive! Please forward this email to 5 friends who might need to register or re-register.

Thank you for making our registration drive a success!

-[Your Name]

[Your Organization]

[your contact information]

Email is helpful to reach a large number of people, but using social media platforms has distinct advantages, too. Social posts are less obtrusive than email and are easily shareable.

Like with email, you can use either an organization’s social media account or your personal network.

Reaching out through Facebook 

Facebook is used by most American adults, and many of us use it to connect with people and issues in our local communities.

A sample Facebook post includes graphic and a message asking if the reader knows someone who isn't registered to vote

Sample Facebook post with graphic and message

Creating a compelling message and adding photos will get plenty of attention on Facebook. Along with the social media graphics that you can download below, these sample posts will help you get started.

Sample Facebook posts

Voter registration is easy and only takes a few minutes! Drop by our voter registration drive at [insert place] on [insert date] between [start time] and [end time].

***

Do you know somebody who’s still not registered to vote? Tell them about our registration drive! Check out this link for more information: [link to more information].

***

In honor of National Voter Registration Day, we’re holding a voter registration drive at [location name] on [date] afternoon! Get yourself ready for this year’s election.

***

Americans are more mobile than ever before. Have you moved recently? Do you need to update your voter registration? It’s fast and easy. Check out [link to more information].

***

Come to our voter registration drive on Saturday at [location]. We have a goal of registering 50 new voters! Help us reach our goal by coming to register or by telling a friend who still needs to register. Please share this post!

Reaching out through Twitter

As it’s often used to release news and short bursts of information, Twitter is well suited to spread the word about your registration drive.

Not familiar with Twitter? Read about it in the Twitter guide for election officials.
A sample Twitter post includes American flag graphic and a message saying a voter registration drive will be held on Friday

Sample Twitter post with graphic and message

Using hashtags puts your message within an ongoing conversation about voting and civic engagement. And adding pictures to your tweet — like the social media graphics below — will help catch your followers’ attention while they’re scrolling.

Sample hashtags

#Election2017

#ElectionDay

#NationalVoterRegistrationDay or #VoterRegistrationDay

#WhyVote

#Voting

#VotingMatters

Local variations on: #CAElection, #FLElection, #OHElection, etc.

Local variations on: #CAPrimary, #FLPrimary, #OHPrimary, etc.

Sample tweets

Voter registration is easy! Drop by our voter registration drive at [insert place] on [insert date] between [start time] and [end time].

***

Do you know somebody who’s not registered to vote? Tell them about our registration drive! [link to more information].

***

In honor of #VoterRegistrationDay we’re holding a registration drive at [location name] on [date] afternoon! Get ready for #Election2017

***

Have you moved recently? Need to update your voter registration? It’s fast and easy. Check out [link to more information].

***

Come to our voter registration drive on Saturday at [location]. Help us reach our goal of 50 new registrations! Please RT! #Election2017

Using free social media graphics

Visuals are an effective tool for any kind of communications outreach, and they’re especially helpful for getting people’s attention on social media, where your message will be competing with lots of other content.

As you saw in the sample Facebook and Twitter postings above, including a graphic with your message can really make it stand out.

To help you boost the impact on social media, we’ve created 10 free graphics to underscore your voter registration message. All 10 are available in the 3 most widely spoken languages in the United States: English, Spanish, and Chinese.

Social media graphics (English versions)

Amplify your influence
"Amplify your influence"
1 of
Dwight D. Eisenhower said the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter
Eisenhower quotation with young man
1 of
Dwight D. Eisenhower said the future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter
Eisenhower quotation with young woman
1 of
Registering to vote is free but priceless
"Registering to vote: free, but priceless"
1 of
Hello, I’m somebody who gives a damn
"Hello, my name is somebody who gives a damn"
1 of
If you have a new address, you need a new voter registration
"New address? New voter registration!"
1 of
To vote, you need to register first
"To vote, you need to register first"
1 of
Sorry, you’re not registered
"Sorry, you’re not registered"
1 of
If you’re not registered, that’s not cool
"Not registered? Not cool."
1 of
Actually, voting does matter
"Actually, voting does matter"
1 of

These graphics are provided free for you to use and have no copyright restrictions. You can download the collection below, in whichever language you want to use.

Download the graphics

Sample graphic Collection
To vote, you need to register first English social media graphics
(10 graphics, each in Twitter and Facebook format, with a ReadMe file including suggested alt text)
Download English collection
Para votar, debes registrarte primero Spanish social media graphics
(10 graphics, each in Twitter and Facebook format, with a ReadMe file including suggested alt text)
Download Spanish collection
要投票,你需要先登記 Chinese social media graphics
(10 graphics, each in Twitter and Facebook format, with a ReadMe file including suggested alt text)
Download Chinese collection

The graphics files are contained in a zip folder. When you click the link above, your download should begin automatically, and the folder will be saved to your default download location.

Once you’ve downloaded the folder, you’ll need to extract the files.

  • To extract the files on a PC, right-click on the zip file and select Extract All. You’ll be prompted to choose a location. Do so, and then press Extract. Your computer will extract the files and create a new folder.
  • To extract the files on a Mac, you can simply double-click on the zip file, and your computer will extract the files into a new folder.

Now that the files are extracted, you can view the folder’s contents. Because Facebook and Twitter use different image dimensions, the collection contains graphics for both platforms. All graphics are PNG files.

Once you find an image that you like, using it on social media is easy. When you go to make your post on Twitter or Facebook, just add the image, type up your message, and you’re good to go.

In addition to the image files, the collections contain ReadMe files that include suggested alt text for each image. Including this alt text when you publish the image will help people with disabilities to access its meaning. You may use the alt text as is or alter it according to your needs. 

Creating eye-catching posters

Even in this digital age, print materials remain effective. Big, bold posters are a great way to catch people’s attention and promote your registration drive.

Your posters can serve double duty: you can post them prior to your drive to spread information about it, and during the drive, place them near your registration table to draw in people who pass by.

You can easily create attractive poster designs using Canva, a free design website.

Not familiar with Canva? Read about it as part of the Infographic design tool.

To help you get started, we’ve created 2 poster templates. The templates come with placeholder language that you can customize with information about your drive. Like with the social media graphics above, we’ve created poster templates in English, Spanish, and Chinese versions. 

Poster templates

Black and white photo poster in English
Black and white photo poster in English
1 of
Color iconic poster in English
Color iconic poster in English
1 of
Black and white photo poster in Spanish
Black and white photo poster in Spanish
1 of
Color iconic poster in Spanish
Color iconic poster in Spanish
1 of
Black and white photo poster in Chinese
Black and white photo poster in Chinese
1 of
Color iconic poster in Chinese
Color iconic poster in Chinese
1 of

To get these templates and customize them with your local information, follow these steps:

  1. Send an email
    Notify our team that you would like to receive the poster templates. Email hello@electiontools.org and include this information in your email:
  • Your name
  • A short sentence on how you learned about the Toolkit
  • Which language posters you’d like to use (English, Spanish, or Chinese)
  1. Receive and open an email
    Once we receive your request, we will share the posters with you with an email that will include links to the templates.
  1. Copy the template
    It’s a good idea to make a copy of each template so that, if you make a mistake, you’ll still have the original version to return to. Once you’re looking at the poster template on the Canva website, go to the upper left corner of the screen, click File, and select Make a copy.
A user finds Make a Copy button by clicking on File in Canva's top menu

It’s a good idea to start by making a copy

  1. Rename the copied template
    In the upper middle of the screen, click the name of the file and then rename it. Click Done when finished.
A user renames a Canva template

Be sure to give your new copy of the template a distinct name

  1. Edit and publish your poster
    In the upper left corner, click on Canva. You should see the copied template in the section labeled All your designs. You should see the original template in the Shared with you section.

Now, you can now edit the poster and tailor it to your local area and your needs. Edit your new copy, and the original will still be there if you need it.

Once you’re happy with your changes, you can download your poster and print it.

The poster templates we provide are just 2 possible designs you can use. As you get more familiar with Canva, consider creating an original design of your own. If you’re looking for some design inspiration, check out these diverse, innovative “Get out the vote” designs hosted by AIGA: The Professional Association for Design.

Guidelines for voter registration drives

After you’ve worked to promote your registration drive, you can make final preparations by examining this collection of best practices. These important guidelines will help to ensure your voter registration drive is fun, effective, and conforms to state laws on voter registration.

Approaching the public

  • Be friendly but not silly. Be active without being aggressive. Instead of simply sitting behind a table, you should walk up to people, but do not chase people or impede pedestrian traffic.
  • Do not pressure or intimidate members of the public to register or not register. When people decline to speak with you or decline to register, acknowledge them with friendly acceptance. Remember that the choice to vote or not vote is a personal decision.
  • Treat members of the public equally. Do not favor citizens who are your age, who share your racial or ethnic background, who speak your language, or who are wearing a political button that you like.

Issuing and processing registration forms

  • If available, have copies of the registration form in several languages. Make these available in plain sight so that citizens who do not speak your language can find them without asking. If applicants require language assistance that you cannot provide, encourage them to take a registration form home and mail it in after they’ve received language help in their own time.
  • Make sure you’re familiar with who is and is not eligible to register to vote in your area. Only help to register those applicants who meet the requirements and who need to either register for the first time or update an existing registration.
  • With young-looking applicants, be sure to state age requirements. In most areas citizens may only register if they are 18 years or older or will be 18 on Election Day.
  • Some states require proof of citizenship when completing a voter registration form. If so, request a copy of one of the documents specified by state law.
  • Do not provide incentives or gifts in exchange for registering (or not registering). Complimentary items may be distributed provided they are nonpartisan and are freely available to everyone. Some states make official voting freebies like buttons available to community groups to distribute at voter registration drives, so inquire as to their availability.
  • If citizens are not sure if they are registered to vote or not, encourage them to check their registration status instead of simply completing a new registration form. You should carefully avoid duplicate registrations; intentionally submitting a duplicate is illegal in many areas.
  • Avoid writing on registration forms yourself or offering assistance. You may provide assistance to applicants with disabilities who ask for help, and if you do, in some states you must indicate on the form that you provided this assistance.
  • Do not make comments or suggestions regarding party affiliation, candidates, or political issues, even if an applicant asks questions or makes comments regarding parties or politics. If a citizen is holding or wearing campaign material, avoid commenting on it.
  • Make sure that applicants complete the registration form in full, including signature and date, social security number, and verifications of U.S. citizenship and age. Incomplete registration forms will be rejected by election officials.
  • Check registration forms to ensure they’re easy to read. If part of all of the form is illegible, encourage the applicant to make corrections, if possible, or complete a new registration form. Avoid making corrections yourself unless the applicant is a person with a disability. Illegible registration forms will lead to errors in processing.

 Submitting completed registration forms

  • Return completed registration forms promptly, meeting the required return deadlines specified in your area, if any, and before the voter registration deadline.
  • Be considerate of the amount of time it takes to process registration forms at the election office, and avoid overwhelming office staff with a large number of applications at once. If possible, submit registration forms in small batches.
  • Even if registration forms are late, you must still return them. Failing to submit completed registration forms disenfranchises the applicants and is against the law.