College campuses are the ideal place for election work. Colleges are natural places to discuss ideas and they bring together a wide variety of people to one central location. Campuses are home to people from a range of backgrounds and faiths. Every member of the campus community can become part of the UCC Our Faith Our Vote campaign.
To be most effective we suggest that you try working with the college presidents, dean of students, student leaders, chaplains, registrar, and employee groups in developing creative and effective ways to both encourage voter registration and increase voter participation. All of the people will have ideas to share and if your energy inspires them to get involved they will be able to help strengthen and broaden your efforts.
There may be other organization on campus registering voters, holding rallies and making phone calls to get out the student vote. If you have a group of UCC students or students of faith, it might be helpful to work as a group within a larger effort - unless of course your group is the only one doing election work or is large enough to run a campus program of your own!
- Voter Registration
- Open a Polling place on your campus
- Absentee Ballots
- Candidate Forums
- Debate Screenings
- Voter Files
- Phone Banking
- Public Announcements
- Voter Transportation
- On Election Day
- Helpful Links
Ideas for Voter Registration
Many college students are newly eligible for vote. Others might be registered at home but not in the state where they attend school. Students live in the area a minimum of nine months out of the year so some may want to register locally. Here are some ideas for voter registration:
- Attach a voter registration form to each course registration form or set up a registration table by the registrar. If your school does online or phone registration, ask to add message encouraging all students to register and informing them of where they can obtain a form. Be sure to coordinate with the registrar!
- Include voter registration information in paychecks, with student loan disbursements, and course catalogs.
- Work with the Dean of Students or head of student life to include presentations to students during orientation. There you can distribute voter registration materials and help new students to complete their forms.
- Mass mail registration forms to all students. Consider including faculty and staff!
- Encourage faculty to discuss and distribute voter registration materials in class. Here's where having the support of the Dean or some Department Chairs will be useful.
- Have a party! Invite a local band to play, sponsor an ultimate Frisbee tournament or get student life or campus ministry to sponsor a cookout. While everyone is gathered get them to register!
- Set up a table outside the cafeteria, sporting events, concerts, plays, etc.
- Go door-to-door in the dorms, or better yet, get Residence Assistants to help you! R.A.'s are typically required to host periodic social events with their residents. Ask them to do an election themed event and register everyone on their floor!
Things to remember:
- It's important that you have both federal and state voter registration forms on hand. Some people may register to vote locally, others may prefer to use their home address.
- Encourage people to register locally - most students live in or around campus for nine months of the year for four years. They can establish residency and often stay close to school after graduation. They can vote where they live!
- Include absentee ballot information with all voter registration material.
- Even if you make registration forms available to everyone on campus, your work isn't done! You need to establish a system to collect all the completed forms. Set up secure drop boxes in high traffic areas or establish a campus mailbox the forms can be sent to.
The big finish: Completed Registration Forms
The most important step of all is to mail in the completed forms within 7-10 days of collecting them. To save time and postage, just bundle up all the cards, put them in an envelope or box, and mail them to the elections office in your state or local jurisdiction. Or better yet, hand-deliver all the cards to the elections office yourself.
Opening a polling place on your campus
If you are interested in opening a polling place on campus, you will have to begin planning well in advance of election day. Here's where having the involvement and the buy in of your college administration will enhance the success of the project.
Contact the local elections official and see what is required to operate a polling place on your campus. College campuses are ideal polling places because they offer ample space, usually have plenty of parking, and are accessible to the handicapped. Plus, opening a polling place will make it easier for people to vote between classes and will increase your voter participation.
Providing absentee ballots will increase your voter participation enormously. Many students and even some professors may be registered to vote at their home address. You can help make it easy for them to vote by providing the address of the local election official so they can contact them to obtain an absentee ballot. You may want to create a form letter for people to use when requesting an application. Each jurisdiction has different laws and regulations for absentee voting, so each person should contact their elections office to get further information on when the applications and ballots are due.
Keep a list of people who have registered to vote at their home address. Then you can contact them about three weeks before the election to be sure they have requested their absentee ballot, and again about one week before the election to be sure they have mailed the ballot back to the appropriate elections office. It might be useful to send out campus wide email reminders or hang signs around so people are reminded to vote absentee. Get state-by-state absentee voter rules from Long Distance Voter.
Organize a Candidate Forum
Candidates for office at all levels love to visit college campuses. It gives them a chance to connect with young voters and be seen in an academic setting. Holding candidate forums helps open up the communication between candidates and their constituents and gets people interested in an election. Here's some ideas to help you get started.
Invite the candidates
Send an invitation letter to the candidates well before the planned event and follow up with a phone call. It may take some time to find a date that will work for the schedules of the candidates in the race. Be flexible.
Plan the format
There are many ways to set up a candidate forum. Here are some of the comment formats. (1) You can allow the candidates to give prepared remarks and have people ask follow-up questions from the audience. (2) You could have prepared questions to ask the candidates on issues important to your community. (3) Pass out index cards to the audience to write questions on and pass them in to be read. (4) Leave enough time at the end for candidates to give closing statements. Give candidates the same amount of time to make their closing remarks. Make sure to have your moderator thank the the candidates for their attendance and to remind people of voting day and encourage them to get out and vote.
Publicize the event
Include brief notices in the newsletters of churches, campus groups, community-based organizations, and other groups related to the ministry of your UCC church or your school. Ask your campus radio station and other media sources to run public service announcements. Ask to be listed in calendars of events in the local newspapers. Display posters in high traffic areas.
Inform the press
Invite the local newspaper, campus media outlets and TV stations to cover your candidate forum or debate. This is a great way to get coverage of the issues to a broader audience. It also gives us a chance to show that your campus and UCC churches are engaged in the political process.
Further Guidelines (These may not apply to your school, but do apply to church sponsored events and non-profit activities)
- Appearing at separate events - You are not required to have all candidates speak on the same date or at the same event. However, you must provide equal access to other candidates in the same race. No campaigning or fundraising should take place.
- Limiting the number of candidates- If the number of candidates for particular office is too large to be practical during a forum or debate, you can limit the number of invitees provided that you adopt and consistently apply the reasonable and objective criteria for deciding between candidates.
- Speaking as a non-candidates - Sometimes candidates who are public figures or are experts in a particular field outside of their candidacy are invited to appear at church-sponsored or school-sponsored functions. They are welcome to come and may be acknowledged just as any visiting dignitary might be, provided that they are not invited to use the occasion as a platform for their candidacy and do not mention the election or their candidacy.
Screening a debate is a simple way to get people interested in the elections. Arrange a place to view the debate (maybe a large gathering in the theater or a small group in your dorm or student center). Promote the event with posters, campus wide emails or a facebook invitation. If you can provide food all the better. Once every one is gathered, watch the debate and leave time at the end for discussion. It may be helpful to invite a moderator to keep things ordered and respectful.
Screenings are great ideas for residence life staff who need to plan social events. They are also a terrific opportunity to get people to sign up to vote.
A voter file is a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, and party registration that is maintained by your local elections office. This is public information and you can purchase it for a nominal fee to use in your Get Out the Vote efforts. If you copy all the voter registration forms before you send them in to the elections office, you may not need to invest in the list.
Phone banking is the easiest and fastest way to contact people and urge them to vote. You will need a list of names, phone numbers, and a bank of phones. Call, remind people to vote and give them clear directions to nearby polling places.
In general, you will want to call people the night before the election and remind them that tomorrow is Election Day. Typically, one person can contact 20-25 people per hour. This can be even easier on a college campus where most forms of communication - campus email, phone systems and typically a campus post office - are easily accessible.
Canvassing is walking through the dorms or the neighboring precincts, and knocking on doors reminding people to vote in the election. Canvassing provides a cheap and effective way to distribute voter education materials.
Using your voting list, start walking through the neighborhoods and dorms knocking on doors of registered voters. When you approach the door, identify yourself and tell them why you are there (to make sure they remember to vote). Leave materials with them - including directions to the polling places and the voting hours.
Remember: Do not endorse a particular candidate or political party. You are not advising people how to vote. If you want to promote a particular candidate, sign up with one of the campaigns to engage in this activity.
In general, canvassing should not be done on Election Day, since you can reach more people faster with a phone call than knocking on doors. Canvassing is good activity for the weekend before the election as a last-minute voter education tool.
Ask your campus radio and TV stations to broadcast public service announcements in the days before the registration deadline and the election, reminding people to vote. Put up table tents in the cafeteria, the library, and the student union urging people to vote. Make sure to list the date of the election, polling locations, and what time the polls open and close.
One of the most useful things you can do is provide voters a ride to the poll. Try to enlist the help of your campus transportation. Does your school have a shuttle? Does your University own buses or vans for transporting sports teams? See if you can get the college to pledge some time, vehicles and drivers. If not, maybe you can get together a crew of students who are willing to car pool. Arrange a meeting place and head to the polls. Make sure to publicize your transportation options.
- Make yourself visible - This could range from standing on the side of the street with signs saying "VOTE," to leafleting the parking lots with fliers reminding people to vote before the polls close. Emails and table drops in the cafeteria can be helpful. Be creative!
- Be a poll watcher. Some states permit representatives of nonpartisan citizen organizations to observe polling places. Contact your local elections officer to find out requirements your organization must meet to serve as poll watchers.
Restoring the Voice of the People
The United Church of Christ's Our Faith Our Vote Campaign is designed to engage the faith community in elections. We engage participants in voter registration drives and candidate forums that get to the heart of the issues we care about.
Discerning the role of the church in politics has been a historically strong part of the UCC and our predecessor bodies. UCC General Synod resolutions and policy statements have spoken to the qualifications for the Office of the President of the U.S. (1960); ethics in public life and conflicts of interest among public office holders (1967) lobbyist disclosure (1977), and of course, a myriad of public issues that are decided on by elected officials at the local, state and national levels.
Our Faith Our Vote work is being done across the U.S., as churches seek to faithfully respond to the call of a God who is still speaking.
Words of Inspiration: A letter of introduction
For people of faith, the public arena we know as “politics” represents much more than the partisan politicking we see on the news. It is a means by which we live out the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Scripture reminds us over and over that building right relationship in human community and with God’s creation is an act inseparable from our relationship with God. So it is important for faith communities to engage in nonpartisan voter education and empowerment programs that help us reflect on our collective life and work to uplift the common good through the political process.
The 2016 election cycle has already stirred strong interest, concern and response across the United States, and indeed, throughout the world. That is not surprising, for these are difficult, complex and challenging times and there is much at stake as we head to the voting booth this November.
At the same time, we face great challenges to the democratic process itself. For the first time in 50 years, voters will go to the polls in November without key protectionscontained in the Voting Rights Act since a 2013 Supreme Court ruling significantly rolled it back. And the disproportionate influence of money in campaigns threatens to drown out the voice of the average voter. An almost unprecedented level of divisive and heated rhetoric dominates the airwaves and the public dialogue. A substantive, thoughtful, respectful exchange across differences on the key issues of the day is becoming harder and harder to achieve. This is precisely why our voice and efforts as people of faith are needed. We can play a unique role in this election cycles by encouraging civil, respectful, informed dialogue that builds community and a hope-filled vision of the future that includes all people. We can help restore the soul of democracy.
The UCC Our Faith Our Vote resource provides information and ideas to assist individuals and congregations in developing nonpartisan and meaningful ways to engage the political and electoral process. We must equip ourselves and our communities to make informed, thoughtful decisions about those who will lead us in the future. The Our Faith Our Vote campaign is one way to do just that, and we hope you will join this effort in 2016.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Traci Blackmon
Acting Executive Minister
UCC Justice and Witness Ministers
Not 18? You can still make your voice heard!
Just because you're not old enough to vote doesn't mean you can't be involved in the elections. In fact youth voices are needed more than anything in politics. Throughout history, political leaders have looked to young people as a source of inspiration. Elected officials love to talk about what youth "want" or "need." In the elections, let's speak for ourselves.
There are a number of ways to get involved in the elections and make an impact on our country's future. Get together with your youth group and engage your local congregation and community. Here's some ideas from OFOV:
Just because you can't vote doesn't mean others shouldn't. Sometimes people just need to be reminded that it is their privilege and their duty to vote. Jog their memory and sign them up!
- Set up a voter registration table before and after church.
- Register people at church suppers, coffee houses and other events.
- Go out into your community and register voters at the local shopping center, grocery store, fair, baseball game, etc.
- Encourage your school administration to hold a registration drive or include voter registration cards with high school diplomas.
- Plan a coffee house or a concert. Not only will this provide an opportunity for your buddy's band to perform in front of a live audience, it will provide you with a room full of people ready to register to vote.
- In the weeks leading up to the elections, invite your congregation to a series of movie screenings. You can show fun elections related films or serious documentaries on issues you're interested in - However you want to do it! Set up a location, invite your congregation, pop some popcorn and get them signed up to vote!
Get Out the Vote
- If you have a license, volunteer to drive individuals to the polls. You've finally got your license - put it to good use!
- Organize or participate in phone banking or canvassing.
- Volunteer to provide child care or to walk peoples' dogs while they vote.
- Make signs and put them up around town reminding your community to go to the polls. Maybe even put an election day countdown outside your church!
Want more ideas?
Check out our resources for college students!
Youth Ministries or Sunday School
Do you lead the youth in your congregation or teach Sunday School classes? Why not use that as an oppertunity for discussion. Here are some sample questions to get you started.
- Why do you think voting is important? Why do you think some people don't vote?
- Who is running for office and what do you think they stand for?
- How do you believe people should be treated in our society?
- What things do people need to live a good life?
- What are a few local, national, and international problems (that you see on TV or in the newspaper), and what can we do to help solve them?
- What are some examples of public policies from that past that were harmful to people (e.g. slavery, the Holocaust, lack of voting rights for women and minorities)? What does our faith or ethics tell us about these policies?
- What are issues being discussed in the campaigns that have moral or ethical dimensions (e.g. hunger, environmental protection and education)? Explain both sides of the debate.
- What did Jesus say about taking responsibility for our society?
- Can you name some New or Old Testament figures who were part of the political debate of their time? (Moses and the law, the prophets, etc.)
- Have a "Love Your Neighbor: Vote" poster contest in your church or community, or ask youth to create posters or fliers that inform their congregation and community about the upcoming elections.
- Create an "investigating political reporter sheet" and have youth interview family, congregation, or community members with several questions: Have you ever voted? Are you registered to vote? Did you vote in the last election? Do you plan to vote in this election? Is it important we vote? If so, why? What issues concern you? Which presidential candidate do you think best represents your views? Why?
- Become media watchdogs and examine election coverage. Use our Media Monitoring guide.
We don't have all the answers! Check out the work of the following organizations. This list gives some of the organizations and websites that staff of the UCC refer to when we receive election-related information requests from our members.
Voter Registration and Get-Out-the-Vote information
- National Campaign for Fair Elections
- Federal Election Commission
- League of Women Voters [resouces in Spanish]
- Project Vote
- Vote 411
- APIA Vote [Information targeted at Asian and Pacific Islander Voters]
Youth and Young Adults
- Rock the Vote
- United States Student Association
- Vote Latino
- Future Majority [Progressive Youth Blogs on Politics]
- The League of Young Voters
Faith-Based Voter Projects
Voting Policy and Reform
Who are UCC young adults?
In the UCC, young adults are considered those between the ages of 18 and 30. The reality is that a young adult could be female, male, a student, a professional, single, married, a parent, still living with a parent, Generation X or a Millennial, a seminarian, an ordained minister, someone who hasn't set foot in a church since high school and anything in between. "Young Adult" is a distinction of age that encompasses a group as diverse and dynamic as any in the UCC.
How can young adults get involved?
Young Adult Service Communities are unique opportunities for you to live in intentional community with others who share your commitment to service and social justice. Together, you will find the space to reflect on questions of meaning and to network for change.
Service and Justice Internships
The YASC network gives you the opportunity to grow professionally and change the world through intern placements with local nonprofit agencies, which are dedicated to justice advocacy and collaborative action.
Your placement will also allow you the opportunity to grow spiritually as you serve in a leadership position at a United Church of Christ congregation. Through this work you can see the convergence of church and world.
Finally, YASC provides you a space to grow personally by living in community with other young leaders, exploring together your direction, calling and future action in the world.
The Summer Communities of Service program is an ecumenical collaboration between the UCC Volunteer Ministries and Alliance of Baptists. Particpants live and serve from June to mid-August in host congregations from around the United States. There a four fundamental facets, which together form the foundation of the SCOS program:
The "intentional Christian community element" makes this program distinct and effective. Interns share a common food allowance, transportation funds and spiritual growth insights. Participants live in community with each other and with their hosts in their temporary city.
In the UCC and Alliance of Baptists diversity is a big piece of our identity. Both churches uphold socially progressive statements and advocate politically from a faith perspective. Diverse, community-service-integrated ministries show interns, congregations, the wider church and world where this faith-inspired work is happening in our midst. The SCOS projects help interns develop long-term commitment to engage in this kind of ministry.
Hands-On Justice Advocacy/Service Opportunities
Grow professionally. Change the World.
Grow Personally. Grow Spiritually.
The Global Mission Intern program invites you to challenge yourself in a one to three year international mission service opportunity. As you offer yourself in service, you will also learn more about yourself, your relationship with God, and your place in God’s world. You will build relationships that will change the way you look at the world. You will be a part of a growing group of young adults who have been transformed by these experiences and will provide you a new community on return. You will come back from your year in mission equipped to provide a global perspective on issues facing the church in our hurting world today.
The UCC national setting recommends sites within the United States that host mission opportunities for groups. These host sites are rooted in local communities and utilize volunteer groups in their on-going service within those places. Volunteers experience God’s presence among new people and in new places through these experiences. UCC Mission Trip Opportunities are short-term, lasting up to a week.
Working together as a significant partner in the ministry and future of the church, OMA seeks to advise, connect and advocate on behalf of the network of persons responsible for Outdoor Ministries in the United Church of Christ. The Outdoor Ministry Association works to support and encourage the staff, volunteers, board members and conferences at these special places; to promote outdoor ministries in all areas of the church; and to celebrate the many wonders of God's nature!
The Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM) advocates, communicates, coordinates, and networks on behalf of youth and young adults of the UCC. CYYAM members work together and with other church leaders to establish strong youth and young adult ministries throughout the UCC by advocating to church leaders, helping make youth and young adult voices heard at General Synod, seeking to address issues of social justice and peace, and serving as a voice for UCC youth and young adults.
The vision of Justice & Witness Ministries is of a more just, peaceful and compassionate world that honors all of God’s creation. Leaders are needed throughout our churches and communities to help share, pursue and achieve this vision. Justice Leaders Engaging and Developing (Justice LED) is a program that offers training, leadership skills and support to local churches and UCC members who seek tangible ways to move our world towards this vision.
Together with Sexuality and Our Faith, Our Whole Lives helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their relationships, health and behavior in the context of their faith. It equips participants with accurate, age-appropriate information in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture. It provides not only facts about anatomy and human development, but helps participants to clarify their values, build interpersonal skills and understand the social, emotional and spiritual aspects of sexuality.