Guide to Running a Relational Voter Registration Program

Emma Brown

Voter registration is an invaluable process for any political campaign. The first reason to register voters is obvious — by registering new people, a campaign expands the number of eligible voters. Target communities or precincts with large numbers of base voters (those who always vote Republican) to increase the likelihood of registering new Republicans. But expanding the electorate is more than engaging with new voters. Campaigns should also consider re-registering former voters who have moved or grown apathetic to voting. Re-registering these individuals, who have already shown an interest in politics, can be a great way to increase voter turnout. 

Guide to Relational Voter Registration!

What is relational voter registration? Relational outreach is a voter outreach strategy where supporters are encouraged to reach out to their personal networks, including friends, family members, and acquaintances, to encourage them to register to vote. This approach is based on the idea that people are more likely to listen to people they know, making it an effective way to increase voter registration rates.

SwipeRed's data-driven audiences and Smart Match©  enables supporters to identify unregistered voters in their networks and help them get registered to vote. If you are starting a relational voter registration drive, it may be the first time for your volunteers or paid relational activists to encounter a formal relational program. So it will be helpful to spend a few minutes discussing the task and why we’re doing it.

Use this guide to help make sure your team feels great about engaging their friends and family to register to vote. You can emphasize that:

Your supporters’ talking to people they know makes a difference. Study after study show that relational outreach is the most effective form of voter contact – more effective than stranger-led outreach methods such as door-knocking, phone-banking, or texting. This is because people tend to trust and value the opinions of their friends and family more than those of strangers.

Your supporters have valuable information and insights about the people in their network that you may not have access to. They are experts on the people in their lives. They have insights that organizations may not have access to, such as who is turning 18, who is politically engaged, and who has recently moved into the state. This is mission-critical for campaigns and electoral organizations that typically base their organizing off of the “voter file”.  Help your supporters understand that their relationships are their biggest asset, and that asset strengthens our republic by making sure everyone exercises their right to vote.

If you have a list of non-registered voters (if not, Buzz360 can get you that list), the SwipeRed Smart Match© will identify the people your supporter knows that are not registered.  They can take action to encourage those friends and family members who are not registered to vote and ask friends who are registered to make a plan to vote. This gives them a valuable starting point for their relational work. 

•  At first, your supporters may feel a bit uncomfortable doing relational outreach. Think about it. You are going to ask people to do something that might be out of their comfort zone. Make sure that your volunteers know how to do what you are asking them to do and that they feel comfortable asking questions if they don’t!

Encourage them to reflect on why they're doing it – do they believe in what they're asking people to do? Is registering to vote important to them? Will elections affect the lives of those they are asking to register? If the answer to these questions is yes, they may find that any initial awkwardness is worth it to take action. Plus, their friends and family may even appreciate the offer of help to navigate the potential confusion of registering to vote.

• Encourage supporters to customize and rephrase the ask in their own voice if they are not comfortable using your ask. Let them know that even saying things like “hey this feels kind of weird but do you plan to vote in this election? I feel really strongly we all need to do our part to help our state or country and vote.  You can check on this website [link] to see if you are registered."

Know the Law
Voter registration is different in every state, and sometimes, in states like Indiana, may vary by county. Generally, there are three ways to register to vote:

Form Registration
— A new voter or a voter who needs to update their voter registration (usually because they moved since they last voted) fills out a state issued form and submits it to the local election authority

Online Registration
— As of 2020, forty states across the country allow some form of online voter registration. Voters fill out an online application that has similar questions to the printed form

Same Day Registration — Almost half of U.S. states allow eligible voters to register at the same time they cast their ballots on Election Day and/or during early voting.
Voter registration laws in your district play a large role in determining what tactics your campaign uses.

Encourage your supporters to follow up with their friends after they have had the initial conversation. A follow-up message to make sure they have had a chance to take action can be extremely effective.

• Celebrate your supporters' efforts and successes. Make sure to celebrate your supporters when they successfully register someone to vote. This helps to keep them motivated and reinforces that their efforts are making a real impact. SwipeRed has a built in Reward system, you can use to create a little friendly competition amongst supporters.  

Provide your supporters with helpful resources and materials. This can include links to online voter registration for your state, information about requirements, and contact information for someone to help them.  SwipeRed has a "frequently asked questions" section right on the volunteer's phone to help them with those awkward questions.

Remind your supporters why relational voter registration is important. Voter registration drives are a critical component of the election process and directly contribute to the health country. By encouraging their friends and family to register to vote, your supporters are playing an important role in shaping the future of our country.

Be patient and supportive. Relational voter registration is a new experience for conservative supporters. The Democrats have been using these tools for the past few cycles. It's important to be patient and supportive as they navigate this new task. Encourage them to ask questions and provide support when they need it.

By following this guide, you can help ensure that your relational voter registration drive is effective, impactful, and enjoyable for everyone involved. 

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