Figure Out Who Among Your Friends and Family Didn’t Vote in 2020, and Cultivate Them

Gently, carefully figure out who among your friends and family didn’t vote in 2020, and cultivate them.

First, the good news. A total of 66.7 percent of all eligible American voters cast a ballot in the November 2020 elections. That’s a clear and definite improvement on the 2016 election, when about 60 percent of all eligible Americans voted.

Now, the bad news: That turnout rate is still nowhere near good enough. It means that one out of three Americans who could have voted, didn’t.

While we did succeed in voting Trump out of office, the victory felt more narrow and precarious than it actually was, thanks to Trump’s repeated failure to accept reality and his aggressive attempts to bend it to his will, democracy be damned. We needed every Biden vote, and could have used more.

It’s certainly possible there’s no one in your circle who skipped the 2020 election. We asked you to talk to all of them and help them get to the polls, and we asked that of you over and over and over.

It’s important to check in with those folks and help them make voting a habit.

You’ll want to read your friends and family carefully. As of January 2020, they might well be politics-ed out.

Stick strictly to the 80/20 rule: Every time you bring up politics, you must also take care to discuss at least four other topics that have nothing to do with politics before you mention it again. (Exception: If your friend or family member brings it up.)

If you reached out to a nonvoting friend or family member last fall, you probably know if they’ve avoided voting because they hit obstacles–difficulties with registering or staying registered, lack of transportation, or an inability to take time off. You might have helped that person get around those obstacles.

If you have a determined nonvoter, or you’ve just discovered a nonvoter in your circle, it might be best to try a softer, more indirect approach in the months following Biden’s Inauguration–talk to them about what matters to them. Then think about what they said to you, and research how those things might connect with politics and voting.

The guiding principle, always, is to put their needs ahead of yours.

The point is to serve them by helping them learn more about politics, how it affects their lives, and how they can exercise some measure of control over things.

If you come off as if you’re doing this for yourself, or if you actually are only doing this for yourself, back off and reassess.

This tactic is a modified version of one of our earliest stories, in which we asked you to think about the three things that are most important to you:


The suggestions in that story really reflect the second step in the process–you can’t necessarily assume your friend or family member cares about First Amendment issues or climate change in and of themselves.

But! Let’s say they spend a lot of time playing video games, or hiking in wooded areas.

Video games can, and have, been directly affected by First Amendment issues. In the past, moralists have tried to ban games or restrict their content. You can relate video games to politics and voting in that manner.

Same again for the hikers–If you like being outside, you care about the environment. You don’t want to see it wrecked by people who only care about making more money.

Environmental issues, such as climate change, enter the picture here. Caring for the forests they like to hike fits neatly with fighting climate change.

When you feel the time is right, start having these broader conversations about their passions; think of ways to connect those passions to politics and voting; and, later, talk to your friend about those connections.

Keep the conversation going on some level (again, never let it take up more than 20 percent of your time together) unless the person directly asks you to stop.

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