How To Get Your Loved Ones To Actually Use Their Voice And Vote

The people you vote for and the decisions that they make while in office directly and indirectly affect every single aspect of the way we live. In a particularly tumultuous political climate where there are so many serious issues at stake, it can be especially frustrating and disheartening to see a loved one choose not to participate in the democratic process. So how do you convince them to change their mind and see the importance of casting their ballot?

As it turns out, if you yourself are an active voter, you stand a better chance at getting your friends and family to become so as well. "We tend to think of voting as an individual act," says political science professor at Duke University John H. Aldrich (via Medill News Service). "I make my decision, and I go to the polls. But in fact, it really is embedded in social connections like spouses and friends."

The good news is that once you encourage a loved one to vote one time, they have a stronger chance of voting in future elections. "If you can get people to vote this time, they'll be more likely to vote in the future," provost professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California Wendy Wood, Ph.D., tells Self. "So you're not just doing something good at this election, you're [influencing the polls in the long term]." Following these tips can help turn your loved one into an active voter.

Make sure they're registered

The first and most important step in any voter's journey is the process of simply registering. Without first registering to do so, you aren't eligible to cast your ballot. The methods of registering and the convenience of doing so varies by state, with many making it easy for you to register online while others require you to register by mail or in person at your local election clerk's office. Additionally, many states have deadlines that you must register by in order to vote in that election (though some states allow you to register all the way through Election Day). You can easily look up how to register based on the state you live in. Determining whether your loved one is registered to vote at their current address, and helping them do so if they are not, can help them get past what is often the biggest barrier.

Many unregistered voters are people who have recently moved and have not yet updated their voting address or simply forgot that they needed to after changing addresses (via Self). Reminding your recently relocated friend or family member to register to vote at their updated address could make all the difference in whether or not they are eligible to vote in the upcoming election.

Find out why they haven't voted in past elections

If you have a friend, family member, or even a partner who regularly chooses to opt out of making their voice heard, the first step is to simply find out why. Maybe they don't think their vote will make a difference either way, maybe they aren't informed enough about the issues or the candidates, or maybe they just have a particularly cynical outlook on politics altogether. Whatever their reason for choosing not to vote in past elections, take the time to truly listen to them and understand why they feel the way they do.

If they don't feel educated enough on the issues or candidates, take the time to inform them and lead them to verified resources that can. Validate their concerns and frustrations, and remind them that voting is the only way to enact positive change. If they are someone who hasn't voted in the past because they don't think their one vote will matter, just remind them that there have been at least a dozen political U.S. political races that came down to being decided by a single vote difference or that have ended in a tie in the past 20 years (via NPR). Let them know their vote matters.

Make it easier for them to cast their ballot

Unfortunately, many people don't vote simply because it is not easy for them to do so. Whether they can't get time off work, don't have a ride to their polling location, or have a health issue that prevents them from showing up to the polls, the reality is that voting is not easily accessible for a lot of people. Additionally, there have been institutional barriers put in place throughout history specifically designed to make it more difficult for certain groups of people to vote, disproportionately affecting communities of color as well as people with disabilities and those of low income, per ACLU.That's why it's especially important to make sure your loved ones don't have any difficulties getting to the polls on Election Day or mailing in or dropping off their ballot beforehand if they are eligible.

Whether your loved one has found it difficult to vote in the past or if they simply decided not to, it's never too late to help them start. "Anything that would reduce the 'costs' of voting would be helpful: Obtaining the paperwork for registering or securing an absentee or mail-in ballot, sharing voting guides, rides to the polls and so forth," said University of Richmond political science professor Jennifer Erkulwater told Yahoo! Finance

Verbally commit to a voting plan of your own

As it turns out, verbally sharing your plans to vote with your loved one could be enough to convince them to head to the polls. "For a potential voter who is surrounded by lots of people who think voting is important, who talk a lot about politics, who are proud to wear that 'I voted' sticker, the natural thing to do is to conform," says professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford University Jon Krosnick (Medill News Service). "And what social psychologists have known for 50 years is that conformity is a very powerful human tendency."

Tell your loved one all about your detailed plan to vote and then ask them to do the same. Laying an actual plan of action out in words or putting it into writing increases the likelihood that your loved one will actually follow through with voting. That's because as much as they may intend to vote, without a solid plan that they feel committed to stick to, the chances of them falling short of that intention are higher. Whether your loved one plans to vote in person on Election Day, vote early in person, or vote by mail, encourage them to articulate their plan of action.

Have a face-to-face conversation

As simple as it may sound, sometimes, one of the best ways to reach people is to simply sit them down and have a conversation with them. If you want your non-voter friend, family member, or partner to become civically active, appeal to them by simply looking at them face-to-face and genuinely asking them to cast their ballot. "Humans are social beings, and having someone ask you to do something is a powerful way of motivating action," Erkulwater says, per Yahoo! Finance. "Political parties, political and civic organizations, and our friend groups are networks that we draw from to keep us informed about politics and motivate us to take action."

If you are nervous about talking to your loved one about voting or aren't sure you will be able to influence them to do so, the best chance you have is by having the conversation in person. According to Self, more direct and personal lines of communication are far more likely to reach someone than trying to encourage them to vote over text or social media. Not only will talking to your loved one in person likely have a greater rate of success than sending them a Facebook message, it will also allow the platform to express yourself in a personal and direct way — leading to less miscommunication and potentially fewer arguments if your loved one feels strongly about their position of not voting.