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Nonprofit VOTE Shares Important Information

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These are challenging times. Like you, Nonprofit VOTE is taking the CDC's warnings about COVID-19 seriously – holding meetings virtually, working remotely, and more. It is our sincere hope that these social distancing interventions will save lives. Protecting our communities is paramount.

We are also looking closely at how COVID-19 impacts the ongoing work of democracy-building, from census count work and the presidential primaries currently underway, to voter engagement work ahead of the November elections. We know practicing social distancing will impact our democratic institutions – we've already seen five states postpone their primaries while other states are moving polling locations out of senior centers and engaging in deep cleaning of polling sites. Many groups, including us, are looking at absentee/mail-in ballots as a way to ensure that elections can proceed while protecting the health of voters and poll workers alike. There are shifts being discussed with the census as well.

Social distancing - especially if this crisis continues for months - will also fundamentally alter how nonprofits engage the communities they serve. It will impact how health centers operate, how food pantries support those in need, and much more. Our team is currently reviewing the resources and assets Nonprofit VOTE has available for nonprofits doing voter engagement, candidate engagement, get out the vote activities, and census count work in light of the new realities. We aim to be responsive to the new environment, because our democracy must go on and the voices of those most impacted must be heard, now more than ever.

Keep scrolling for some initial resources (Absentee Ballots, Voter Registration, and Census) that will help your organization adjust to the new reality and offer strategies for continuing the important work of engaging voters despite the current challenges. We will be providing additional updates to our partners, including adjustments to our own supporting resources, in the days and weeks ahead.


If you are in a state that’s still having primaries, now is the time to promote absentee ballots. For others, it’s time to study up in advance of November. In the times of COVID-19, the widespread use of absentee ballots can be an effective strategy for practicing social distancing while ensuring elections continue.

All states allow some form of absentee voting. Though absentee ballots are typically used by voters who are out of town on Election Day, military personnel stationed overseas, and the home-bound, they can be used by voters more broadly as a way to vote by mail and avoid crowded polling sites. Most states provide absentee ballots upon request to any registered voter who asks - no excuses required. 21 states currently require some excuse, travel or otherwise. Four Vote-by-Mail states simply mail paper ballots to all voters.

Learn about absentee ballot options in your state and use them as part of your nonprofit’s voter engagement strategy. See our Absentee Ballot page for updates.

Email links with absentee voting information to your members:

  • Voting in a primary: For remaining state primary elections, the ACLU has a guide with deadlines and links for requesting absentee ballots.

  • Online tool: You can use Vote.org’s absentee ballot tool across all 50 states to see absentee ballot requirements and fill out a mailable PDF to request a ballot. You will need to return it before your state’s deadline.

Learn if your nonprofit can distribute and/or collect absentee ballot request forms:

  • Rules vary by state: You can check your state’s policy using this map by the National Vote at Home Institute. The key is explained here.  

  • Can you distribute or collect forms? Some states have rules on whether a nonprofit (considered a third party group) can give or help voters submit absentee ballot request forms. See end of the “Requesting an Absentee Ballot” section on this NCSL page for third party collection rules.


Face-to-face voter engagement is the most effective method of bringing hard-to-reach and marginalized groups into the democratic process. However, to maintain social distancing in the short-term, nonprofits can encourage the communities they serve to register to vote online or by mail. All states allow voters to register by mail. 39 states, plus D.C., currently allow online voter registration (OVR). In most states, OVR will work only for people that have a driver's license or a state ID. Others will still need paper forms. There are an array of online tools nonprofits can embed on their own sites or link to that can help individuals register to vote while adhering to social distancing. See our Voter Engagement Digital Tools page for updates.

Online Voter Registration Tools:

  • If all your work is in one state, your best strategy may be to send people directly to your State’s online voter registration portal. Visit Vote.gov to find your state’s OVR portal.

  • If you serve clients across multiple states, Rock the VoteTurboVote, and Vote.org offer a national portal that captures basic information, then sends voters to the respective state to finish their application. All three tools capture contact information and send follow up election reminders, but there can be drop off since some people stop half-way and don’t complete the registration process on the state site. You can embed these tools into your website.Some tools can be customized with your own branding/logos.

Mail-In Registration:


If your organization is doing “Get Out the Count” (GOTC) work for Census 2020, here are some helpful tips to practice social distancing by enhancing your digital and/or telephone outreach. Learn more on our Census2020 site NonprofitsCount.org.

  • Remind the communities you serve that it has never been easier and more accessible to respond to the census online, over the phone, or by mail.

  • Share the message that the census website – my2020Census.gov – is live and citizens can fill out the form via phone in English and 12 non-English languages. Here is a guide to share on how to start that process.

  • Consider phone banking, text bank, emails, and other strategies to encourage the Hard to Count communities you serve to participate in the census.

  • Census Digital U offers on-demand digital training focused on effective GOTC practices like SMS, online advertising, integrating online/offline are covered at length, and featuring various digital organizing experts.