Encouraging Democracy in Your Community
Election Day chronicles the street-level experience of voters in today's America to discover that American democracy rests on an antiquated system, which often works as much to frustrate voter participation as to encourage it and which harbors wide disparities in access between rich and poor neighborhoods.
What can you do to bolster democracy and ensure fair elections?
- If you are not already registered, register to vote and encourage others to do so as well. You can register at your local post office, county elections office or library. Confirm your registration ahead of Election Day by looking for notices in the mail, visiting your Secretary of State's website or calling your local election official. If you are already a registered voter, offer to help someone else register by taking them to register or picking up a registration form for them.
- Sign up to work as a pollworker on Election Day with your local board of elections and recruit your friends to join you. Most communities pay pollworkers for the day's work.
- Volunteer to observe a polling place with a nonpartisan monitoring group, such as Election Protection. You can also often observe the vote counting.
- Work to ensure that election officials conduct an audit of their election equipment to ensure that the tally was accurate.
- Investigate the training of poll workers, election board members, and others who facilitate elections. Share suggestions for ways that the training might be improved.
- Attend public meetings of your local board of elections to find out about the allocation of resources in your community on Election Day. Come up with a list of questions to ask, which may include: Will there be enough staff and machines at busy locations? Will there be enough regular ballots available? Are translated materials easily accessible? Are there emergency paper ballots available if machines fail?
- Find out what the policy is in your state about ex-felons being able to vote. If what you find doesn't conform to your views, work to change the policy.
- Research proposed legislation that would affect how elections are run, at both a state and federal level. Bills are often filed to deal with Election Day voter registration, voting by mail and election equipment. Call, write or email your state or U.S. representatives to express your support or opposition to pending bills.
Get informed about the issues in the film and lead a discussion in your community.
This guide contains background information, sample discussion questions, a list of related resources tips for facilitating a discussion and organizing an event.
This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film, Election Day, which shows the experiences of a number of people in various parts of the United States on Election Day 2004. Classrooms can use this lesson to study how the voting process differs around the country and to discuss issues related to elections administration.
This multimedia resource list, compiled by Rebecca Federman of the New York Public Library, provides a range of perspectives on the issues raised by the P.O.V. documentary Election Day and recommended books and magazine articles about electoral process.