MCC Votes

Steps to Voting and Participating In Your Democracy

 
Register

  • If you are a US citizen, as soon as you turn 18, you should register to vote. MCC community members can do so in just a few minutes on TurboVote. Many states, including Massachusetts, allow you to register online.
  • Some states, including Massachusetts, require you to register in advance of the election you want to vote in. In Massachusetts, you must register at least 10 days before the election. In other states, like New Hampshire, you can register on election day, right at your polling place.
  • If you are not yet 18, some states, including Massachusetts, allow you to “pre-register” to vote. In Massachusetts, residents that are at least 16 can pre-register and will be automatically registered (and notified) on their 18th birthday. You can pre-register to vote in Massachusetts via TurboVote.


Check your registration and learn when and where to vote

  • You can check your registration and find info about upcoming elections and your polling location on TurboVote as well. It’s crucial that you check your registration at least once a year as some states purge voter rolls of inactive voters.
  • It’s also important to stay up to date on where and how to vote. Many states have early voting or vote by mail options (Massachusetts has both!) and those are great options if you can’t or don’t want to go to the polls on election day. Visit TurboVote to learn more about your options and how to request a mail in ballot.

Research your ballot and make decisions ahead of time

  • Being an informed voter is important. Knowing which sources to trust for information can be a challenge, but the more research you do, the easier it becomes to see the bias that exists.
  • We recommend using non-partisan sites like Ballotpedia to research candidates and ballot measures.
  • If you choose to research candidates via news and the internet, ask yourself things like “Who owns this source?” “Who paid for this ad?” “What are their motives for sharing this information?” 
  • Be very wary of information shared with no source via social media, or of sources you’ve never heard of. There are sites on the internet that will help fact check information and politicians. Use this database from CUNY to start. Talk to friends and family, listen to diverse voices, and come to your own conclusions

Vote

  • Ahead of every election, make a plan to vote. Are you voting in person, early or by mail? Do you know when and where to vote or request a ballot? What time will you go to the polls? What’s on your ballot and what decisions will you make? 
  • Know the requirements needed to vote in your state (presenting an ID, etc) and know your rights at the polls.
  • Voting is a fundamental right for all citizens and no one can prevent you from doing so. 
  • Visit https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/voting-rights/ to learn more. 

Stay engaged

Even when there isn’t an election to plan for, it is important to stay informed (following the same steps to fact check your information as outlined above) and engaged in your democracy.  Some ways to do this:
  • Know who represents you on a local (town/city council), state (state legislature, governor), and federal level (Congress, President) and how to get in touch with them. Elected officials work for you. Your vote gives the power to hire and fire them - and they are ready and willing to hear your thoughts and act upon them.
  • Your town website will tell you who your local officials are and you can find your state and federal reps by entering your address here. You can contact them directly from that page. 
  • Alternatively, you can use a site like 5 Calls to see scripts on current issues and adapt them to your personal stance.
  • If you dislike phone calls, you can email your reps instead!  Make sure to ONLY contact the reps in your district and state 
  • Need more help? Contact the Office of Civic and Service-Learning and we’ll help you make the call or write the email!
  • Look for local, grass-roots organizations working for change. Grass roots means unelected officials – just ordinary citizens like you who are passionate about an issue and working to make change from outside government. You can Google “ groups in ” to see what already exists, and if what you’re looking for doesn’t exist, start your own! We’ll even help you!
  • The right of peaceful assembly is guaranteed, which means if you don’t think your voice is being heard, you can gather people together somewhere (often done in front of the state house or local town halls) to express your feelings. When done safely, protest is a powerful tool – we’ve seen it work with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and most recently with the Black Lives Matter/Police Reform protests in the summer of 2020. 
  • If you choose to start or attend a protest, know your rights and follow the proper steps if permits are required. You also have rights if you are stopped or arrested by law enforcement – research these ahead of time in case it happens.

What if I can’t vote?

Many of the above items, like voting and calling your reps, are only available to documented US citizens. But undocumented people and non-citizens have rights too and are some of the most important voices to make change in this country. 

  • Canvass – This is a centuries old technique that is as simple as going door to door (or, these days, texting and using social media) to talk to your friends and neighbors about the issues that are important to you. You can do it on your own, just by knocking on a door or creating an Instagram post, or you can join a grassroots organization that will have tools and scripts to help you get your message out.
  • Volunteer – You can volunteer with a political campaign or grassroots organization, even if you can’t vote for them.
  • Create and sign online petitions – you’ve probably seen petitions being shared on Instagram and Twitter. You don’t need to be a citizen to sign them and share them so they receive more attention.
  • Lobby for more inclusive voting laws and paths to citizenship. Many states have movements to allow felons and inmates the opportunity to vote, and immigrants’ rights organizations are hard at work ensuring that there is a path to citizenship for everyone who wants one. Consider joining them to ensure that others in your situation can have their voices heard too!

 

Ready to get started? Contact the Office of Civic and Service-Learning for more details and for help!

Last Modified: 12/22/23