I am saddened by the low level to which U.S. politics has sunk. The hate, vindictiveness, personal insults, racism, and pandering—it seems that the worst aspects of the internet have come to life and turned into flesh and blood. The causes are many, but now I’m more concerned about what can be done to turn this around and am hopeful that all Americans exercise their right to vote. (You can register to vote below—it only takes two mintues to complete!)

We’re better than this. We are a country that, to the surprise of many, elected a black president. James Brown sang about such a thing decades ago and we all thought, “Maybe our children will live to see that happen.” But it did happen—a black man, a reasonable man willing to negotiate and compromise, has been our president. In fact, folks turned out in droves to vote for Obama. Citizens in many areas—especially places with young, low-income, and minority populations—got out to the polls and made themselves heard. We need to do this again.

Sadly, that has not been happening this year, and we need that to change. The Demos.org article “Why Voting Matters” provides some insight as to why this might be the case:

Large numbers of lesser-advantaged Americans have been left out of the democratic process: in 2012, 26 million eligible voters of color did not vote, and, among eligible voters earning less than $50,000, 47 million did not vote. In 2014, 44 million eligible voters of color did not vote, and 66 million eligible voters earning less than $50,000 did not vote.

And here’s a chart from Mother Jones that shows just how skewed the percentages of potential voters who don’t have a government-issued photo ID are:

As the Community Voters Project points out, “The Rising American Electorate—unmarried women, young people, and people of color—are the fastest growing cohort of eligible voters and now comprise the majority of America’s voting age population. Yet these voters have historically been, and to this day are, significantly underrepresented at the polls.”

This is not a good time for these votes to go uncast. What limited voice we have we need to exercise—we need to be heard.

Yes, the Republicans got voter ID and other laws passed in many states—legislation that was specifically designed to make it harder for the folks listed above to vote—but there are organizations that are working hard to counter those efforts and help people of whatever persuasion get to their polling places and vote.

A two-pronged approach is required in order for that to happen. The Community Voters Project functions on a more personal level—their staffers and volunteers are in the streets, continuing the fight against disenfranchisement by registering voters one by one and providing clarification into the (sometimes intentionally confusing) registration and voting processes.

The second prong is legal—advocacy and lobbying in order to change laws and policies. Project Vote focuses more on that area by providing litigation, research, and technical assistance in order to promote effective voter registration laws, ensure that list maintenance procedures do not remove eligible voters, and provide solutions that remove barriers to voting.

Both the Community Voters Project and Project Vote are nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that can use your help, and mine, as well. Below you can find some more information about each group and learn how you can contribute to their cause.

Despite all the heinous things the U.S. has done, we are still looked up to around the world. We are what many other people aspire to—or our good aspects at least.

The Community Voters Project

The Community Voters Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit voter registration and get out the vote campaign helping to register and turn out African American, Latino and young voters. Since 1984, the Community Voters Project and its affiliated programs have helped register over 3 million voters across the country in order to ensure that the interests and viewpoints of all Americans are fairly represented. In the 2016 cycle, the organization aims to register 400,000 African American and Latino voters nationally through on-the-ground-site based programs. Trained staffers and volunteers will be registering voters by street canvassing in communities of color and talking to people one-on-one—at bus stops, outside of stores, at gas stations, and anywhere else that might have high concentrations of unregistered voters—and asking them to fill out a voter registration form right there on the street. You can make a donation here and view job opportunities here.

Project Vote

Project Vote is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase voter participation among historically disenfranchised communities in order to build an electorate that accurately represents America’s diversity. They engage in advocacy, litigation, research, and technical assistance to promote voter registration laws, ensure that list maintenance procedures do not remove eligible voters, and advance solutions that remove the barriers to voting. For over 20 years, Project Vote has developed and run large-scale voter registration drives and get out the vote programs that placed paid canvassers and volunteers of local community organizations in high traffic sites in neighborhoods of color. Additionally, Project Vote brings together experienced organizers, attorneys, and academics to provide nonprofit service providers—ranging in size from a neighborhood of just a few precincts to a national program operating simultaneously in dozens of cities—with the training and technical assistance to encourage their clients to register to vote. A general manual for incorporating voter registration programs can be found here. You can make a donation here and view job and internship opportunities here.

Scroll down to REGISTER TO VOTE! It only takes two minutes!

Don't remember if you're already registered? Verify your voter status.

Now that you're registered, where do you go vote? Find your polling place.

What type of ID you need to bring to the polls varies by state. See your state's ID requirements.

Learn about your state's specific election info including deadlines, who's running, and if you have a felony conviction.

Every state will let you vote by absentee ballot if you can't make it to the polls on Election Day—and more than half will let you vote-by-mail even if you can vote in person! Learn how to vote by mail.

Are you a student? Find information on student voting.

Are you overseas and/or in the military? Register to vote and request your absentee ballot.

Volunteer to register voters at concerts and festivals!

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