TRICK OR VOTE: Using Halloween For Voter Outreach

Halloween is one time when people welcome young strangers knocking on their doors. And students are definitely geared up for people in costumes. It’s also just before Election Day—a perfect time to engage potential voters, on campus or in the community. You can pass out candy and share information about this year’s election! To download a pdf version of this resouce, click here.

First organized by the Oregon Bus Project, Trick or Vote is a fun, effective tool for election engagement, on campus or off. Connecting a recognizable event to voting is a creative approach to face-to-face outreach—the most effective way to boost voter turnout.

Any group can engage in Trick or Vote. You just need Halloween costumes, face paint, and an adventurous spirit. On a residential campus, get permission from Residence Life and organize a canvass, as described in Campus Election Engagement Project’s dorm storm resource. At commuter schools target high-traffic areas like student unions or the main quad, and do tabling, visibility parades and direct student-to-student outreach. If you’re in a state where CEEP has a State Director, enlist them for resources and advice. And if you’re a community group, adapt these suggestions for neighborhoods you’d like to target.

Helpful tips:

  • Recruit and instruct team leaders to manage volunteers. Review the organizing details beforehand.
  • Divide up the turf so there’s no overlap. Assign teams to cover specific dorms or areas of the campus. If you’re working off-campus, like in nearby student-heavy neighborhoods, provide color-coded street maps.
  • Give volunteers a basic script. This may be as simple as “Hi, I’m a volunteer with [your campus nonpartisan organization, like Badgers Vote] and we’re reminding people to vote in the November election. Do you know what ID you need to bring? Have you made a plan to vote?”
  • Encourage volunteers to dress up—scary, funny, whatever works creatively. Go crazy with the face paint! When approaching doors, bring candy instead of asking for it. Then remind voters about the upcoming election.
  • Supply volunteers with clipboards, pens, candy, and printed handouts, such as CEEP’s candidate guides or information on ID requirements. If your school hasn’t yet passed out your allocation of the voter ID rule wallet cards supplied by CEEP partner VoteRiders, this is a great context to distribute them. Volunteers should know about the voting process, and the location of relevant precincts. org is a great source to look this up and also find out which races you’ll be able to vote on. And you can get state-specific guides to student-focused voting rules at Campus Vote Project.
  • If you’re at a campus, track contacts, collected contact information, voter guide distribution, and volunteer participants. Report totals to your CEEP state director. If you’re with a community group, do the same so your organization can follow up.
  • Invite local and campus media to attend the event, and report any media hits. (Past Trick or Vote events have been covered by local TV, radio, and newspapers.) Create an event hashtag to track social media.
  • Have fun. This is a great way to make voting a celebration.

(Created with permission of the Oregon Bus Project from its now inactive Trick or Vote Wiki)