Home 5 Campaign Resources 5 A Guide To Framing Relational Voter Registration

A Guide To Framing Relational Voter Registration

by | Apr 6

Why do we do relational outreach? What is relational voter registration? PDI’s Contact and Survey feature in OutreachCircle allows folks to identify unregistered voters in their networks and help them get registered to vote. If you’re using this action with your volunteers or paid relational mobilizers, it may be many folks’ first time encountering relational, so it can be helpful to spend a few minutes discussing what the task is and why we’re doing it. Use this guide to help make sure your team feels great about engaging their friends and family to register to vote. You can emphasize that:


  • Your supporters’ relational outreach makes a difference. We know that relational outreach is the most effective form of voter contact – more effective than traditional door-knocking, phonebanking, or texting. This might sound surprising, but it makes intuitive sense – people are more likely to listen to their trusted friends and family than strangers. Share with them what we know about the effectiveness of relational and the unique power they have to get their friends and family registered, engaged, and voting. 


  • Your supporters have a voter registration superpower that campaigns and organizations don’t. Supporters are experts on the people in their lives. They know who among their friends recently turned 18, who is always talking about politics and who isn’t involved yet, who moved to the state recently and is still getting set up, and so on. This is mission-critical for campaigns and electoral organizations that typically base their organizing off of the “voter file”, the official record of registered voters that each state maintains. (Supporters won’t necessarily be familiar with what “the voter file” is, so it can be helpful to put it into words!) In the case of voter registration, there’s no list to go off of. Campaigns and organizations have to figure out who lives in the state and is eligible to vote but isn’t registered yet – and often, this means a lot of guesswork and searching for needles in haystacks. Now, supporters can guide campaigns and organizations through their networks to get people registered to vote. Help your supporters understand that their relationships are their superpower, and how we’re going to use that superpower to strengthen our democracy and make sure everyone we know is set up to exercise their right to vote.


  • Your supporters can help combat voter suppression efforts. In this action, supporters will be able to see which of their friends and family are registered to vote, and which aren’t. This gives them a valuable starting point for their relational work. But it’s also important to emphasize that this work isn’t just about voters who are unregistered – in this era of voter suppression, it’s a good idea for everyone to double check their voter registration every year. 


  • Your supporters may feel a little awkward at first.  Sometimes doing relational outreach can feel strange, or even transactional. If you sense that is coming up, name it, and encourage supporters to think through that discomfort and maybe even name it to their friends, too. Asking people to do something can be uncomfortable – but do we believe in what we are asking them to do? Is this important to us? Will elections affect the lives of the people we are asking to register? If the answers to these questions are yes, supporters may find that taking action is worth feeling that initial awkwardness. Friends and family may even appreciate an offer to help them navigate what can sometimes be a confusing process of registering to vote. Encourage supporters to make use of the “Customize message” step in the action and rephrase the ask in their own voice. Let them know that even saying things like “hi this feels kind of weird but I care about you and I want everyone I love to be registered to vote” is helpful and okay. 


  • Your supporters’ hesitations are valid and critical to address. Be aware of hesitations folks might have about voter registration, and be prepared to speak to these concerns. For example, some folks in mixed status households may worry that registering to vote could put undocumented loved ones at risk. Be ready to address concerns like this so that everyone feels safe and confident. 


Want to learn more? Check out our relational resource hub and get in touch with one of our experts.