How To Help Out When Your Vote Doesn't Count 


The recent Lincoln Restler-Chris Olechowski election in North Brooklyn was decided by 19 votes, reminding us that, at least locally, every ballot counts. But that doesn’t always feel true on a national level. Will casting a vote for Obama in Brooklyn do anything for marriage equality in Minnesota? Or to enfranchise Arab-Americans? Will it do anything about the often-maddening process of voting itself? If you feel frustrated, there are ways to get involved that might seem a whole lot more meaningful than casting that single vote of yours on November 6. Here are several local organizations that could use your time—and some apps that could use your employ.

No. 1

Chris Asta, Board Director: “ACT NOW is not an organization that is about getting together and talking about this or that. We’re about getting together and doing. We put boots on the ground, leading bus trips to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania to reelect President Obama and Metro-North trips into Westchester to support congressional candidate Sean Maloney. When we convince one voter to support President Obama, that voter might convince three others, who can each do the same for three more. Each voter we talk to makes a significant difference, and the outreach we do has the potential to grow quickly and exponentially, such that one person, giving one afternoon, can have an impact far beyond what her one vote allows her. What is important about these interactions is that they’re personal. It’s one voter reaching out to another on a human level. And it’s that personal, human element that seems to always make the difference.”
ACT Now NY website

No. 2
Marriage Equality USA

Brian Silva, Executive Director: “Marriage Equality USA is the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer-driven organization dedicated solely to civil marriage equality for all Americans. Our work focuses on education, training, direct action and working in collaboration with other individuals and organizations. We invite everyone who believes in this cause to volunteer for a local phone bank or weekend canvassing trip through our 20 Million More Campaign, a coalition of almost 50 local and national organizations working this fall in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington.”
20 Million More website

No. 3
Common Cause New York

Susan Lerner, Executive Director: “Common Cause is dedicated to helping citizens make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.  We are the ‘people’s lobby,’ so to speak. In New York, Common Cause is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that empowers ordinary people to make their voices heard. This Election Day, we’ll need your help—if you know your Assembly and Election districts you can “Cut the Line,” skipping the initial information table. You can volunteer to help us cut down on long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots at the busiest polling places during the high-volume morning or evening hours by using our Cut the Line app on your smart phone or tablet.”
Common Cause website

No. 4
Jeremy Canfield, Service Designer: “We’ve built PollWatch [in conjunction with Common Cause] not in the service of a party or candidate but in the service of democracy, so that any voter can easily monitor what’s happening at his or her polling site. Voting is the fundamental act of democracy and, frankly, it is often a far more frustrating process than it should be. Without people reporting the specific problems at their polling sites, there is little chance those problems will get better. We need people to help us spread the word and, crucially, use the app on Election Day.”
PollWatch website

No. 5
The Arab-American Family Support Center

Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Development and Communications Associate: “Volunteers are an invaluable part of the AAFSC family, and we could not run our programs without their dedication and generous time-donations. As an organization we pledged to collect 150 voter registrations; we surpassed that number by collecting 185. AAFSC would not have been able to achieve this number if it wasn’t for our volunteers and interns who worked tirelessly everyday registering people to vote from all over Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Our volunteers have also been working on establishing workshops that focus on the fundamentals of voter engagement. These workshops will be presented to our clients as the elections approach. Fifty to 60 volunteers work in our Adult Education Program, helping our clients read, write and speak English as well as practice for their citizenship exams. Volunteering with us provides vital help in our mission to empower new immigrants with the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the world around them and become active participants in their communities.”
AAFSC website


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