7 Ways to Support a Free and Fair Election

Sep 3, 2020 |

The Presidential election is just 60 days away. Election Day is November 3rd, and early voting in New York takes place October 24 – November 1, 2020.

If you're like me, you might be getting a little anxious about the campaign, particularly given the many barriers the COVID-19 pandemic has created to voting as usual.

As a valued member of our community, you know that advocacy, engagement, and participation have always been core to University Settlement's mission. Our sites have been polling places for decades, and we pride ourselves on helping thousands of people learn about their voting rights and how to get registered every year.

That's why I wanted to take a few minutes to share 7 specific actions you can take today and over the next few months to support a free and fair election.  

First, make sure you are registered to vote! Check to make sure you have an active registration here.  The last day to register to vote in New York state is Friday, October 9.

Request an absentee ballot today! Requesting an absentee ballot in New York City has been simplified as a result of COVID-19.  On the application, select "temporary illness," which has been legally expanded to include everyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can also call 1-866-VOTE-NYC. The U.S. Post Office advises New Yorkers to apply for an absentee ballot by Monday, October 19 to ensure it can be postmarked, returned, and processed on time.

If you're not able to vote absentee, find your polling place here.

Then what?

Encourage your friends and family to complete their voter registrations, and to vote. A 2017 study from the Pew Charitable Trusts indicated that over 20% of eligible American citizens are not registered to vote. If "did not vote" had been a candidate in the 2016 election, it would have won all but 6 states. As you know, the stakes of this election are incredibly high for all Americans, and even moreso for those of us who are immigrants or have low incomes – if you're able to convince just one person who wouldn't have voted to do so, it can make a big difference. 

Talk with your loved ones about the election and explain why their vote matters. And share the resources detailed above for voter registration and requesting an absentee ballot with them, either directly or through social media.

Take action against voter suppression. Every year, millions of voters are purged from the rolls without their knowledge, making it impossible for them to vote on election day. Voters of color are removed from the rolls at a much higher rate than white voters.  The Center for Common Ground's nonpartisan Reclaim Our Vote campaign systematically reaches out to voters of color in states like Georgia, Virginia, and Texas to encourage them to check that their registrations are up to date.

Get involved with a campaign to help get out the vote. Candidates need more than donations from supporters, they need citizens willing to donate their time and energy to help. You can aid them by making calls to generate support and donations, distributing signs, and recruiting more volunteers. 

Become a federal observer. Under the Voting Rights Act, you may be eligible to monitor procedures in polling places where ballots are counted. Federal Observers are authorized to detect intimidation and fraud by watching and taking notes of everything that happens inside the polling place. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is always particularly looking for federal election observers who speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, and several Native American and Alaskan languages.  Learn more about becoming a Federal Observer.

Apply to be a poll worker. Did you know that New York is experiencing a critical shortage of poll workers as a result of COVID-19? More workers are needed than usual because poll workers need to enforce social distancing and wipe down and sanitize surfaces. Poll workers set up polling places for voting, process voters as they arrive, share instructions and procedures with voters, and canvass and report results. Learn how to become a poll worker in New York state here.


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