chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: October 2023 | Voting & Elections

Every Vote Counts: Four Things We Can Do to Encourage Voting

David M Godfrey

Every Vote Counts: Four Things We Can Do to Encourage Voting

Jump to:

The 2024 national election season will be starting soon, with primaries after the first of the year. As lawyers, we understand the importance of good law making in the legislative branch, effective administration in the executive branch, and the best judges in the judicial branch.  Every election is important, and every vote counts. 

Here are four things we can do to encourage voting:

  1. Verify that you are registered to vote and help encourage others to register.  Every election there are news stories of people who go to vote and discover that they are not on the registration rolls.  States purge the rolls of voters who have not voted recently, mistakes are made, and even the most minor change in address can result in the voter not being properly registered. Checking ahead is the best guarantee that you are properly registered.  A handful of jurisdictions allow Election Day registration, but most do not. Remind your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers to check their registration and if needed, help them register.  
  2. If you or someone you know needs help with the physical process of voting, find out what assistance is allowed in your state, and how to ask for it.  Every state has provisions defining what qualifies voters for assistance with voting, what kinds of assistance are allowed, and who can help a voter.  As a starting point, the ABA Commission on Law and Aging has a guide for voter assistance, and a guide for “Assisting Cognitively Impaired Individuals with Voting.”  If you, or someone you know needs help with the physical process of voting before the election, call your local elections office and ask what you need to do to request assistance at the polls.  While mail-in or absentee voting may be the easiest option, many voters find comfort in showing up at the polling place, seeing old friends and neighbors, and voting in person.  The assistance rules are designed to help every voter who wants to vote, vote.  It also helps to know in advance what to do if poll workers are unsure what assistance is allowed or improperly deny assistance that is requested.  Usually, the call for help needs to be made before the voter leaves the polling place, and the person requesting assistance needs to be prepared to make that call. Remember the person assisting the voter cannot coach or persuade the voter in making selections in any way.  If the voter is unclear or unable to make a selection on any part of the ballot, that part of the ballot must be left unvoted. 
  3. Carpool to the voting location.  An old friend of mine says “go vote and take a couple of friends along with you, one under each arm.” Democracy works best when every voice is heard.  Let family members, friends, and neighbors know when you are driving to the polling place and offer to take them along.  Do not worry if their vote is different than yours, every vote counts.  Late in her life, my mother told me that her vote usually cancelled out my father’s vote – all the more reason she was sure to always go vote. 
  4. Work the Polls.  In most polling places, the people who check you in, hand you the ballot, and watch that it is counted or deposited in the ballot box are your neighbors. In some places, they are volunteers, in others they are paid a very modest stipend for the day.  Across the country there is a chronic shortage of poll workers. Lawyers and others with legal training are ideal poll workers because we are trained to understand and follow rules and procedures. Most places offer some basic training and support for poll workers. I was a polling place worker for a decade early in my legal career. It was a great way to get to know my neighbors and be an active part of the democratic process.  I will likely return to doing so after I retire.     

A representative democracy works best when every qualified voter, who wishes to vote, votes.  We can do our part to encourage registration, assistance, helping people get to the polls, and making sure the polls are well-staffed to make the system work the way it is intended.  Every election is important, and every vote counts.