Voting is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in the United States. Yet, turnout in national elections is consistently lower than two-thirds of eligible voters. Participation rates among certain demographic groups and in state or local elections are often lower still. There is frequent talk about the critical role of libraries in our democracy. What does that look like in practice? This year presents unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Election dates have changed, voting sites have moved, and access to expanded voting options--such as vote by mail or expanded absentee voting--is still being debated in many states.
Libraries are nonpartisan, but they are not indifferent. As institutions that provide access to information, resources, programs, and public spaces for all members of a community, libraries are a cornerstone for civic engagement and more important than ever.
Voter Engagement Resources
ALA supports the work of all types of libraries and partner organizations to increase voter engagement in all communities. Read more and find resources and ideas in ALA's Voter Engagement Guide.
Use this one-page handout with your local election commission, elected officials, community leaders, and organizational partners to highlight the ways libraries support voter participation and education.
Developed by a team of librarians from across the country, the toolkits provide state-by-state voting and election information, including registration forms, polling places, deadlines, and more. General resources such as lesson plans and voting hotlines are included as well. GODORT created these resources so that librarians can use as-is or adapt to meet the information needs of their libraries.
ALA's Chapter Relations Office surveyed state associations to learn how many libraries serve as in-person polling places or host ballot drop-boxes. Preliminary results are shared.
Women's Suffrage Centennial
In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, ALA developed this youth reading list of women's suffrage leaders, both familiar and lesser-known, who contribute alongside others to a broad legacy of activism and struggle towards the American promise of a representative and inclusive democracy. Program and display ideas are included as well.
ALA also partnered with the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission to distribute women's suffrage youth book sets to libraries in all 50 states and 2 U.S. territories. Discover the project's reach and photos from selected distribution recipients in the 2020 report.
September 22, 2020 – National Voter Registration Day
ALA is pleased to join National Voter Registration Day as a premier partner. Sign up to participate, receive information and resources about hosting voter registration, and join libraries across the country in celebrating NVRD on September 22: https://bit.ly/2YDVQ5a.
ALA, National Voter Registration Day staff, and librarian colleagues discuss past participation in the event and how the current moment will inform activities, resources, and plans for participation in this year's National Voter Registration Day. The webinar can be viewed here. Slides can be viewed here.
January 2020, ALA MidWinter Meeting – From Non-Voters to New Voters: How Librarians Can Engage Their Communities in the 2020 Elections and Beyond
Millions of Americans go unheard in our elections because they don’t vote. Young people, people of color, and people with lower incomes and education levels have particularly lower rates of voter participation. However, innovative programs have found successful ways to promote engagement among these potential voters. Hear from voting experts and libraries about how your library can deliver nonpartisan information and programs that advance equitable participation in the upcoming 2020 elections and beyond—and why now is a great time to start! See the presentation slides and coverage from Library Journal.
June 2019 – Public Library Association – The Public Library’s Role During Elections: Voter Education in the Age of Misinformation
In a time marked by uncertainty, the public library is in an extraordinary position as one of society’s most trusted institutions. Public libraries can leverage that trust to be at the forefront of voter education as we head into what will be one of the most watched presidential elections of our lifetimes. Voter education reflects the needs of an often divided and overwhelmed citizenry. It also addresses the changing landscape of information gathering and dissemination, while encouraging people to engage directly with community, state, and national issues of concern.
League of Women Voters Election Changes Guide
The League of Women Voters has created this bilingual (English/Spanish) guide to state election changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.vote411.org/coronavirus.
Vote.org Elections Guide
For state-by-state updates about primary election dates and voter registration and ballot request deadlines, visit: https://www.vote.org/covid-19/.
Libraries & Voter Engagement in the News
ALA Voter Engagement Partners
For additional information, contact:
Deputy Director, Public Policy and Government Relations
Megan Murray Cusick
Assistant Director, State Advocacy