Voter Registration

Volunteers at Lowell Community Health Center in Lowell Massachusetts

Voter registration is a common nonpartisan activity for nonprofits. For example, nonprofits will:

  • Table in their lobby, at events or in the local community
  • Register clients and constituents during services or other programs and activities.
  • Register staff, board and volunteers.
  • Have youth or volunteers conduct voter registration drives in advance of elections.
  • Use their communications to encourage people to register to vote.

The Two Main Guidelines when Doing Voter Registration

1. Be nonpartisan. Nonprofit staff or volunteers may not suggest what candidate to support or party to join. In states that ask the person to choose a party affiliation, you may, however, explain to voters the difference between registering with a party and registering without party affiliation.

2. Follow your state’s voter registration laws and procedures. Voter registration differs in each state. Learn how to do voter registration in your state. Visit our official 50 State Guide to Voting in Your State  to review registration guidelines, download forms or access online voter registration or registration look up tools. Contact your local election office. They can help by providing training, guidelines and forms for conducting voter registration drives.

Q: What if someone asks me who to vote for or what’s on the ballot?
Say that this is a nonpartisan effort and you can’t say who to vote for. Encourage the person to talk to a friend or family member they trust and share values with, or direct the person to a sample ballot or nonpartisan voter guide if available.

Q: What can I say about a ballot measure that our nonprofit supports or opposes?
Ballot measures are laws, not candidates. The IRS considers activity on ballot questions lobbying, not electioneering. You are free to cite the need to support or oppose a ballot measure as an important reason to register and vote. Or stay neutral.

Q: I understand certain federal funding for programs like Head Start and Medicaid either restrict or require voter registration? What federal funds have rules?

  • In certain cases, federal funds have restrictions related specifically to conducting voter registration.  These restrictions apply to Community Service Block Grants, Head Start, AmeriCorps/Corporation of National Community Service, and Legal Services. See Federal Funds and Voter Registration Factsheet in  English – Spanish.
  • In other cases nonprofit agencies are required to offer voter registration to people signing up for federal benefits such as WIC or Medicaid or programs serving people with disabilities. See National Voter Registration Act Factsheet in EnglishSpanish

More Resources

Celebrate National Voter Registration Day on the 4th Tuesday of September