Get Out the Vote Do’s and Don’ts
A successful get-out-the-vote campaign must be a compliant one! Election activities carried out in AAUW’s name must be conducted within the guidelines set out in AAUW policies. Activities must also be allowable under regulations established by the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission.* To help you be compliant in your campaign activities, we’ve put together this list of basic election do’s and don’ts.
- Register eligible voters in your community. Notify the public using signs and handouts that all registration information is available to individuals without regard to their political preference. See state rules about registration requirements. More information can be found on the National Association of State Election Directors and U.S. Election Assistance Commission websites.
- Work in coalition. Identify particular groups in the community (e.g., women, students, people of color, people with disabilities) to be part of coalition efforts or to receive election materials. Decisions about groups with which to work closely should be based on factors such as the desire to build a broad-based coalition, not on whether an anticipated coalition partner can affect the outcome of an election. Any political action committee or organization that has endorsed a candidate cannot be asked to be a part of AAUW voter education efforts.
- Inform people of their right to vote, or tell them when and where to vote on Election Day. Urge voters by phone, door-to-door canvassing, e-mail, or public service announcements to remember to vote on Election Day
- Distribute material educating voters about the issues at stake in the election. Focus issue education messages and get-out-the-vote activities on the impact that the election results will have on AAUW priority issues. For example, a branch or state can publish a “vote pro-choice” message. The message cannot appear, however, in a publication that gives candidates’ views on reproductive choice.
- Determine and publicize the positions of candidates. Encourage voters to support unspecified candidates who agree with AAUW’s position on specific issues.
- Host a candidate forum. Invite all major-party candidates running for a particular office to attend a candidate forum or debate to discuss their views and answer questions posed by members of the community. A major-party candidate may be invited to speak at an AAUW branch event as long as you extend the same invitation to all other major-party candidates in the race.
- Produce and distribute unbiased candidate questionnaires covering a range of AAUW issues. All candidates running for the offices that are covered in the questionnaire must have the opportunity to participate. Questions must be phrased as neutrally possible; language must not favor or disfavor a particular candidate. All responses received must be printed in their entirety in any publication of responses to the questionnaire. The publication of responses should include the names of all candidates to whom the questionnaire was sent.
- Publish voter guides that include the position of major-party candidates on specific issues. The information in the voter guides must be available from public sources, such as prior votes cast by candidates, position papers, or public statements made by the candidate.
- Publish voting records for the state’s congressional delegation, state legislature, or other body. The voting record must include all incumbents within the district or geographic area. Its content (e.g., the votes to be included) and distribution must not be coordinated with candidates.
- Target any voter registration efforts at either Democrats or Republicans. Notify the public on signs and any handouts that all registration information is available to individuals without regard to their political preference or support for AAUW issues. See state rules about registration requirements. Information can be found on the National Association of State Election Directors and U.S. Election Assistance Commission websites.
- Endorse candidates in any partisan election, including local, state, congressional, gubernatorial, or presidential elections. Do not make oral or written statements supporting or opposing a political candidate, party, or Political Action Committee (PAC).
- Distribute advocacy materials as part of voter registration or in conjunction with any event designed to highlight an incumbent’s or candidate’s position. Voter registration materials can be made available on a separate table from issue advocacy materials at events.
- Tell individuals, communities, or voters which candidates they should vote for. A branch or state can publish a “vote pro-choice” message. The message cannot appear, however, in a publication that gives candidates’ views on reproductive choice.
- Invite or permit only selected candidates to address your members at events or meetings. All candidates must be given an equal opportunity.
- Coordinate with a political candidate, party, or PAC in planning or carrying out nonpartisan voter registration, education, or turnout activity. Do not provide membership lists to be used in fundraising or other efforts as an in-kind gift to any political campaign. This includes AAUW e-mail lists.
*Note: AAUW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and the AAUW Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. Any branch or state that has not filed to be separately incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization falls under AAUW’s 501(c)(4) status. Certain AAUW policies prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations from undertaking some activities that are legally permissible for 501(c)(4) organizations. Election activity guidelines for state and local races sometimes differ from those found in federal regulations. To determine state and local regulations for partisan and nonpartisan races, including school boards, check with your state elections division.
Get concise information about key policy issues in the 2016 election to help you prepare for the election and educate voters.
A candidate forum is a public event where candidates running for office are invited to express their positions on AAUW issues.
This guide provides some easy steps to running a successful voter registration campaign.