Blog

  • Getting Young People to the Polls: U.S. Vote Foundation’s New Georgia Runoff Election Student Toolkit

    Every vote counts in any election, and that maxim is on full display in the upcoming January 5, 2021 Georgia runoff election. With two Senate seats up for grabs, and the margins in the General Election so small that the runoffs could go for either candidate, making sure every citizen is a voter – the mission statement of the U.S. Vote Foundation – has taken on a new urgency.

    As we wrote recently, getting young people to the polls or voting at home will be a decisive factor in determining the winners. Those young people not only include the one million youth voters who voted in the last election, it also includes the ones who didn’t show up but are still eligible to cast a ballot for the runoff election.

    Many of those young voters – registered or not –  are students, which prompted us to create a comprehensive Student Toolkit for the Georgia runoff election. Some of those who didn’t vote in November hadn’t turned 18 by November 3. But this time around, if their 18th birthday falls on or before January 5, they can register now and cast a ballot like everyone else. Whether you’re in high school or college, employed or looking for work, as long as you meet the age requirements, you can, and should, cast your ballot.

    You don’t even have to be a student to use our Student Toolkit. We also encourage teachers, administrators, and school boards to make this toolkit as widely available as possible. Every eligible young person should be a voter too.

  • Georgia’s Runoff Election: A Sordid History Underlies the Peach State’s Election Process

     

    Election 2020 has been full of surprises, and chief among them is the fact that control of the Senate was not decided following the November election. Instead, the majority party for the new congressional term will be settled through a runoff Senate election in Georgia on January 5, 2021.

    Both races to represent Georgia in the United State Senate failed to give any candidate a clear majority of the votes, and under state law, the lack of majority means the two candidates with the largest plurality of votes have to face each other again in a runoff election. While it’s already unusual that both senators from a particular state are up for election in the same year, a double runoff is an even more rare occurrence.

    However, runoff elections in Georgia – and Louisiana, the only other state that requires them – are hardly a quirk limited to the 2020 election. The history of the January 5 runoff election in Georgia starts back in the 19th century, when the perceived threat of newly emancipated (male) slaves actually exercising their right to vote ushered in an increasingly systematic and violent campaign of voter suppression, of which the runoff election is one manifestation.

  • Who Gets to Pick Georgia’s Next Senators? It Might Be Up to Young People (But Only If They Show Up)

    As the country gears up for a double runoff Senate election in Georgia, here’s a quick look at what could be one of the major deciding factors in the January 5 runoff. That factor is the youth vote, that cohort of 18-29 year-olds that arguably tipped the scales in Georgia during the 2020 Presidential Election and could possibly do the same in January for Georgia’s two Senators in January.

    Understanding the youth factor in any election is complicated, and the youth vote in the United States has always been an elusive prize for politicians. Eligible young voters make up approximately 20 percent of the electorate – definitely a tide-turning quantity – but the inconsistent frequency in which they vote has made them a complex group to understand. As campaign after campaign has learned the hard way, turning out young people for rallies and voter registration drives doesn’t necessarily translate into votes at the polls.

  • Early results from US Vote’s 2020 Voter Experience Survey: Voters’ Perceptions of Election Integrity and Confidence are Higher, and Less Partisan, Than Many Think

    One of the unfortunate narratives coming out of this complex election year has been a raft of accusations about the integrity of the election process. The concerns have spanned a gamut of issues: from fears of foreign interference and the casting of fraudulent ballots to concerns about the accuracy of the final ballot count. Underlying these general concerns have been intimations of a partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats that pits one set of partisans who embrace the narrative that the election was deeply flawed and therefore invalid against another side that maintains that everything went well. 

    Not so fast. It turns out, like many aspects of this election, simple black and white comparisons across party lines don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

  • Soothing Thoughts for Nervous Voters

    The election season is coming to a close. Can we honestly say: it’s about time? With less than a week left until Election Day, it’s probably safe to say some voter fatigue is setting in. With the pandemic as backdrop, aided and abetted by the relentless doomsday scenario-spinning that many news outlets and social media accounts are exacerbating, 2020 has been a wild ride to say the least. And to say the ride will be over on Nov. 3 would be just another piece of fake news: even if we have a solid winner shortly after Election Day, the chaotic nature of this election won’t go away for a while.

    So, as the antidote to doomscrolling and handwringing, we’d like to offer a little hope and a little optimism about what lies ahead.

  • It’s Not Just About the White House: Down-ballot Voting is Important Too

    While record numbers of voters are planning to cast a ballot this November – or are doing so right now, depending on the availability of early voting and mail-in balloting in your state – a troubling question is starting to emerge: will these voters, many of them first time voters, vote for more than who they want to see sitting in the White House come January 20?

    The issue of a lack of “down-ballot voting,” as it is called, is hardly new. In a typical presidential election year, when barely 50 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, a third or more of those voting don’t bother to fill out the entire ballot. While this will be by almost any measure a very atypical election, the question remains whether that same 30 percent of ballots will be about only one race and none other.

    The good news is that voters don’t have to vote for everything on the ballot in order for the votes they do cast to be valid. Which is how it should be. But the bad news is that not voting down-ballot for state and local representatives and not voting on local issues – school bonds and referenda and funding for police and social services – means wasting an opportunity to have the broadest impact possible.

    And that impact actually extends all the way back up the ballot as well. Not voting locally doesn’t just leave important issues up to a small minority of eligible voters, it can have a huge impact on future national elections in ways that may not seem obvious at first. Which is why we’re here to encourage you to fill out a much of that ballot as possible.

    Here’s our top three reasons to fill out that ballot from top to bottom:

  • Tales from the US Vote Help Desk: Meet The Volunteers

    Voting should be simple. It should be easy and efficient. It should allow any eligible citizen to claim their right to vote without difficulty.

    It is not. Voting in the US is complicated, especially due to state-by-state differences that make it hard to participate in the most basic democratic process.

    Now, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, voters who would normally go to the polls on Election Day are seeking out other options. And that can be overwhelming.

    No one knows this better than the people who answer voters’ questions and help guide them through the process. Meet Gabe and Pam, staffers on the U.S. Vote Foundation and their Overseas Vote help desks.

  • Vote at Home Tips for Newbies: Ballot Party, Anyone?

    It’s possible that, like many of this year’s voters, you’re voting from home for the first time. Good for you. You may even be voting for first time, period. Even better. There’s a lot of good reasons to vote at home – safety in the midst of a pandemic being the main one these days. Another great reason is convenience: a vote at home ballot can be mailed in any time after it’s been received as long as it’s well before the November 3 election. (We’ll discuss when to actually mail in the ballot in a minute, but ASAP is a good rule of thumb.)

    We at US Vote think there’s a third reason – though admittedly we’re biased. A real ballot, unfolded on your kitchen table, is actually pretty cool. Ballots are the raw material of democracy, the warp and weft of our society. Each one is collection of civic lessons, the blueprint for a civic society. A teaching and learning moment.

    But we digress.

    For those of you who might actually be voting for the first time, be prepared to be confused: Sorry, our democracy is a bit messy, and not only are the ballots themselves confusing, the information packets that come with them aren’t always as helpful as they should be. We’ve seen plenty of county guides that contradict state guides, with information about candidates that don’t necessarily apply to the ballot in front of you. Sometimes there’s nothing about a candidate, race or referendum at all – unfortunately. We warned you it could be messy.

  • Voting during a Disaster: How to Vote by Mail When The Mailbox is Gone

    The news has been pretty grim if you live on the West Coast or the Gulf Coast: fires, hurricanes, evacuations, the loss of homes and businesses. The twin threat of seasonal fires and hurricanes are a constant reminder of the fragility inherent in the interplay between civilization and nature.

    With both fire season and hurricane season still upon us, : thousands have already lost their homes, and hundreds of thousands have been evacuated. Many of those evacuated were able to return to their homes, but all too many are now permanently displaced. And while access to voting is not necessarily the highest priority in situations when life, home and hearth are literally at risk, it’s important to know that those who want to vote still have options even if “vote at home” is no longer feasible.

    The main issue is how to get a hold of that ballot if there’s no longer a voter mailbox to which it can be delivered. As ballots are generally not forwardable – for obvious security reasons – obtaining a ballot will take some effort.

  • FedEx Launches Special 10-Country Next-Day US Ballot Return Program

    FedEx Steps Up for Overseas Voters


    FedEx has announced:

    "For the upcoming US election, FedEx Express offers a fast, reliable way for Americans abroad to send ballots home. US voters living in 10 European countries can now take advantage of a special rate for overnight return of their absentee ballot.

    From now through November, FedEx International Priority service for envelopes up to 500g sent to the USA costs just €25 from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark (kr.186), Poland (112 zł), Sweden (260 kr), and the United Kingdom (£23)."

    Special Instructions to Access the Discounted Price:

    • You must book online to access the discounted price.
    • You must create an account and set up payment by credit card to access the discounted price.