How To Talk About Voting


How do you talk about voting? Who do you start with? How do I talk to my crazy uncle?

We make it a point to ensure that even friends that don't agree with us vote regularly. The more invested they are in the process, the more of a chance we have to make them listen to us pontificate at length about our views! (Kidding!) But in all seriousness, when you invest in the idea that everybody should stay informed and exercise their right vote, it becomes much easier to have productive conversation with the people you disagree with.

Here are a few pointers to help you have productive, useful conversations about voting with anybody, even people you don't agree with:


Start with whether they vote, not how they vote.

It's always easier to talk about logistics than politics. Here are some ways to start that conversation with a member of your team:

  • Ask about whether they vote, have voted in the past, or are considering voting.

  • If you're near an Election Day, ask what time of day they plan on voting and how they're getting to the polls.

  • If they have voted in the past but stopped, ask why.

    • If they say they don't know where to register, don't have the right ID, or don't have transport to the polls, offer to help them figure it out.

    • If they mention that they feel like they don't have enough information about the candidates, direct them to ballot resources (check out Ballot Ready, Ballotpedia, or our state voting guide for information about resources in your state) and let them know you're always available to talk things through. You can always research the issues together, even when you don't have the same point of view.


Focus on issues, not candidates.

If you know somebody is passionate about a specific issue, whether that be racial equality, voting rights, women's rights, student debt, or healthcare, start talking about it with them. Let them know that you plan to vote because of your interest in these issues, and highlight the differences in policy that exist among the candidates. A lot of people need to see how their vote can have a direct impact on policy. Make that connection for them.

don’t worry about winning arguments.

Sure we'd all love if everybody voted like us, but the goal of being a Vote Captain is simply to get people to the polls. That sometimes means sending people who don't see eye-to-eye with you on everything.

It's definitely okay (and encouraged!) to talk with your team about how you plan to vote and why. If you find yourself in the middle of an uncomfortable disagreement on candidates or policy, however, don't insist that your team members agree with you. Instead, make sure to forcefully state that your ultimate goal is just to get everybody on your team to vote, and that disagreeing on the issues doesn't mean you've given up on that goal.

Voting is a critical part of becoming politically aware, and encouraging your team to show up allows you to begin any political conversations from a place of respect instead of dismissal or frustration.

Figure out a way to meet in the middle.

Sometimes we have no choice but to talk about politics with people who don't agree with us. Often it's somebody from a different political party, but disagreements can just as easily exist within a political party. Instead of getting frustrated, try to see if you can find common ground, at least when in comes to basic priorities. This gives you an opening to talk about why you vote the way you do without dismissing your team member's concerns and vice versa. (Fair warning: It can take some will power to hold your fire when people express points of view you don't agree with! It's good to practice beforehand with friends!) Some examples:

  • I can see that we both are frustrated by how expensive healthcare is. We seem to have different solutions in mind, but we both agree on the problem. Here's how I'd like to see this problem solved...

  • I know that you are worried about job security and diminishing economic opportunity. I am too, especially as a recent graduate, but I see the cause as something different. In my opinion the cause is...

  • Students borrowers now leave school owing on average about $34,000. That is up 70% from a decade ago. I don't think it's a matter of simply buckling down and working hard anymore. In fact, in my opinion this a full fledged crisis for young people...

That said, there are of course people that aren't willing to have a respectful conversation not matter how you approach them. It's always okay to disengage if you sense somebody is not going to be receptive to your efforts. 

Here are some great ideas for talking with people across the political spectrum from Robert Reich at Inequality Media: