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2010 Voter Rights/Registration Packet

Overcoming Resistance by Individuals

When people do not wish to register to vote, it is often because they may not understand how voting can affect their lives. It is your job to try to find out why they do not want to register and to help them determine why it is important that they register and vote.

Below are some suggestions for how to do this. It is important, however, for you to use your own words and creativity to express your desire to help others register to vote. You are out there because on some level you believe in the importance of voting.  Why is it so important to you? Be yourself and share this honestly with those to whom you are talking.

1. Find out why she is saying “no.”

Remember an excuse may hide a more basic reason. For example, she may say, “I really don’t have time,” when, in fact, she really means, “I don’t want to take the time to register because I don’t believe voting matters.”

Listen carefully. Is it a real reason or just an excuse? If it is an excuse, what question will you use to uncover the real reason for not wanting to register?

For example:

Volunteer: “Hi, I am concerned about affordable housing and am out here today registering people to vote. Would you like to register?”
Non-Voter: “Thanks anyway, but I don’t want to register.”
Volunteer:  “Why not?”
Non-Voter:  “Those politicians are all alike anyway. They don’t do anything for us once they get elected.”


2. Agree with her.

Make yourself her friend, not an opponent. Let her know that you heard what she said and that you share her concern.

What will you say to let her know you heard her and that you understand that she has a valid concern?

Volunteer:  “Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes it seems like none of the politicians are working for you and me; they’re just working for people who have a lot of money.”


3. Use her reason to convince her.

Explain how her concern is really a reason she should register.

Given her valid concern, what is a great reason for her to register now?

Volunteer:  “That is why I am out here registering voters. I am fed up with politicians getting away with that just because people like us are not voting. You know, in the past some elections were decided by just a few hundred votes.”


4. Ask if you can help her fill out the registration form.

Let her know that you are a trained volunteer and can answer any voter registration questions that she may have.

Volunteer: “It takes just a couple of minutes to fill out the form. Can I give you a hand?”

Final Step: Turn Registered Voters into Volunteers

If you have made sure that a person really is registered, is your job done? No! People who are already registered are your best prospects to become volunteers. So what do you say once you know someone is already registered? “Great, but do not go away. Listen, it is people like you and me — people who understand how important it is for everyone to vote -- who are the heart of our campaign. You know we have an election coming up, and it could have a big impact on the future of housing, human services, jobs, and all kinds of issues. Do you think you could work with us for a few hours?"  Get their name, address, phone number, and email.

At the very least, try to get them to refer their friends or family to the registration event!

Common excuses people give for not wanting to register— and sample responses you can give, using the 4-Step Strategy:

Excuse:  “I don’t have time.”

Your response: “I know you are busy. That is why we are out here, to save you the time of going down to the county elections office. This way you will not have to give up your right to vote, and it will take less than a minute. Can I help you fill out this form?

Excuse:  “My candidates always lose anyway.”

Your response: “I know what you mean. I have been really frustrated the same way. And then I found out that many people did not vote last time. So people like you and me who are fed up have gotten together and we are going to register 5,000 people right here in town. Can I help you fill out this form?

Excuse:  “I think I’m already registered.”

Lots of people who think they are already registered have actually been taken off the registration rolls — usually because they moved. If someone tells you they have already registered, try “Great, have you moved or changed your name since you last registered?”

Excuse: “I’m homeless.”

A person has the right to vote no matter where they live, provided they meet other voter eligibility requirements.  A location of residence must be indicated on the registration form so that officials may verify the precinct in which you live.  A mailing address is used to send elections materials and keep the voter registration list current.

Excuse: “I don’t have an ID”

Please see “State-by-state Chart of ID requirements” in this guide.

Excuse:   “I have been convicted of a crime.”

Most people think that they cannot vote if they have been convicted of a crime, yet many states allow convicted felons to vote, either automatically after release from prison, parole, or probation or once they have applied for restoration of their voting rights. Ask your county elections office about your state’s laws on this issue.

Download full report as pdf | Acknowledgements | Introduction | Overcoming Agency Resistance | Frequently Asked Questions by Organizations about Conducting Voter Registration | Incorporating Voter Registration into the Intake Process | Conducting a Successful Voter Registration Drive | Overcoming Resistance by Individuals | Frequently Asked Questions by Individuals | Conducting a Voter Registration Party | Registering Tenants to Vote | Having Candidates Volunteer at Your Agency | Holding a Candidate Forum on Housing and Homelessness | Media Tips for Hosting Events | Letter Writing Power Hour | Leading Up to Election Day | On Election Day | Voting & Registration Information Flyer | Legal Issues and Practical Barriers to Voting for Homeless People | State-by-State Chart of Homeless People’s Voting Rights | State-by-State Chart of Disenfranchisement Categories | State-by-State Chart of ID Requirements | State-by-State Chart of Registration Deadlines & Residency Requirements | Court Decisions on Homeless People’s Voting Rights | Sample Phone Script | Sample Invitation Letter | Sample Media Advisory | Sample Press Release

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