The IRS explicitly states 501(c)(3) organizations may conduct “get out the vote” activities and help people vote on a nonpartisan basis. Helping people vote is a safe, nonpartisan activity as long as you’re not telling or suggesting to someone whom to vote for or against.
As nonpartisan, trusted messengers based in local communities, nonprofits can play a vital role in promoting voter and civic participation.
Q: Our nonprofit serves children. Is using the slogan “Vote for Children”partisan if our organization’s positions are known to be closer to one of the candidates?
No. It’s generally nonpartisan to say “Vote for” any issue – children, the environment, health care, affordable housing, etc. In 2016, food security organizations promoted voter participation in a campaign called Vote to End Hunger. It’s ok to ask voters to think about broad-based issues when voting that don’t indicate a specific position. On the other hand, slogans like “Vote for Reproductive Rights” or “Vote to Cut Taxes” are single issues that often divide candidates. They signal your support for specific candidates that share your organizations viewpoint and this appears partisan.
Q: Can we target our get out the vote activities to certain voters?
You may target your community you serve or any community known to need more help voting – youth, first-time voters, new citizens, underserved populations. You may not do what political campaigns do – target GOTV efforts at voters you have pre-identified as voting for a certain candidate – in other words based on a conversation you or someone has already had with them or on their partisan voting history in a voter file. Leave that type of GOTV to candidates, 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations and other political entities.
Q: I work with seniors in assisted living. Is it okay to help them obtain and fill out a mail ballot?
Senior living or medical facilities may help residents obtain and return an absentee ballot. The resident can designate a family member or someone working at the facility to help them fill out the ballot. Most states have that person sign the ballot along with the voter. People deemed “mentally incompetent” to make their own decision cannot legally vote. Consult your local election office for additional information.
Q: Can nonprofit staff wear candidate buttons or apparel on or close to Election Day?
To maintain a consistent appearance of nonpartisanship, staff should not wear any partisan political buttons or apparel. It is ok to have something in a private office, but not if it’s used regularly to see clients or constituents.
Q: What if someone needs a ride to the polls. Where can I send them that is nonpartisan?
You have three options.