Do you think about November 3, 2020? I do. I think about it every single day, because that is the moment when we will have the opportunity to seize the reins of power and change the direction of our country. How? By voting.
Whether we are on the same political side of things or not, surely we can all agree that voting is of paramount importance (unless you’re on the side of voter suppression, in which case please come on by! I’ll happily kick your teeth in). Not only do I believe that, as Americans, we are obligated to vote — I also believe that the need to vote has roots in our Judaism. As the sage Hillel said, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” (Pirke Avot 2:5). People separate themselves from the community when they believe they are not responsible for what happens within it — and voting is perhaps the most clear expression of our responsibility to have a role in our democracy.
(Plus, let’s face it: It doesn’t make sense to separate yourself from the community, because you live in the community! Your vote is your voice — if you don’t use it to advocate for your own best interests, then other people’s voices will drown out yours.)
I’ve written before about how I believe so ardently in the importance of voting that, ever since I had children, I’ve never gone to the voting booth alone. I feel it is critical to instill in them the imperative to vote and participate in our democracy.
So, now you get it: I love being able to vote. And the more of us vote, the better our country will be. Because we only have a representational democracy when the vast majority of us are actually represented, and that can only happen when we all vote. (And no, I’m not encouraging voter fraud — haters, go troll elsewhere.)
But the work for all of that starts now. I’m calling my resolution for this year #20for2020: I am attempting to register 20 new voters each week of 2020. I realize this is ambitious — as a writer, a mom of six, and a podcast host, I kinda have things going on — and it’s not a goal that I will necessarily meet, but I’m going to try.
Just imagine if each one of us made it our personal mission to even register 20 new voters each month; elections have been decided by fewer votes than that. In the third Congressional district in my own state of New Jersey, for example, Congressman Andy Kim was elected in 2018 by the slimmest of margins: Just more than 3,900 votes decided that election. If I get 20 new voters registered each week, by the time October comes around, I’ll have registered around 800 people. And that is just me, one individual.
To me, this new year’s resolution is much more feasible than losing a pound a week — I happen to know that for a fact, since I have made that my New Year’s resolution for a few years running and look at me now! Sigh. But whatever — registering voters will make much more of a difference to our country, regardless of what my dress size is.
Want to join me? The election may be distant, in November, but the work starts now.
Here are just a few ways to reach out and register new voters, whether by actually doing the paperwork to get them registered, or by planting the seeds of education to ensure that they do so. Whichever path you choose, don’t worry: I’m counting it as your 20 for 2020!
1. Get educated!
Go to your state and county websites and find out what you need to do to register to vote. Print out some forms so you see what you need to do in your state/county to vote, so that you have them at the ready. Just like that, you’re on your way! I often say to people I come in contact with as I go about my day, “Hey, are you registered to vote?” If they’re not, I simply pull out my docs. Admittedly, I’m weird, but hey — I do what I gotta do.
2. Are you a self-starter? If so, get started!
Contact your local high schools, synagogues, and other institutions about reaching out to 18-year-olds to make sure they are registered to vote. (Some states, like mine, have motor voter registration where you can opt to automatically register when you get your license, but many others do not.) You can pair up with your local Federation to do this, too; it’s a nonpartisan effort in the best interests of our community and our country to get more people to vote. Last year, I met with people from my local Federation to start a venture to get people registered to vote (“New Year, New Voter,” complete with a shofar logo!). We created a video of young people talking about why they feel it’s crucial to vote, and we connected individuals and synagogues with resources to register, whether their home state or the state in which they attend college. You can see our work here.
3. Do you like going to concerts and shows? Me too!
Sign up to volunteer with Head Count, a great organization that lets you register new voters at concerts and music festivals. (Best of all: You get to attend the concerts too! For free!)
4. Do you want to be moved?
Find out where and when new US citizens are sworn in close to you by looking into it here. Then, attend a swearing in and offer brand new Americans the forms and chance to register to vote!
5. Are you an introvert who really doesn’t like talking to strangers?
Do not worry! You’ve got options, too. Go to Vote Forward, where you can write letters to traditionally underrepresented, not-yet-registered voters in various states of your choice, accompanied by the documents they need to put in the mail in order to register to vote.
6. Let younger people do the work!
Connect your local school with When We All Vote, which aims to engage and educate teens about the necessity of voting. This organization focuses on the importance of education for would-be voters. Here’s an action plan to bring to your local high school history department’s attention.
7. Coordinate with local organizations with people power to do the legwork!
I’m working with the National Council for Jewish Women to tap into all their hardworking, engaged members for help on the ground — whether it’s coordinating with local high schools, faith-based institutions, or senior centers, or any of what I’ve mentioned above. Coordinating with an organization can be helpful in getting you a motivated squad of people to help you help your country.
8. Sit down and get to work!
Contact local street fairs and events in your community to see if you can set up a table to register voters. You do not have to be affiliated with an organization to do this: all you need are forms, maybe a clipboard or two, some pens and good sneakers. Instead of meeting friends for brunch, how about you get some friends together and make a day of it?
We’ve got 10 months but the clock is ticking. Bring your other ideas and let’s do this thing.