Can I Drive People to the Polls or Carpool?
Yes, you can drive people to the polls to help them vote. In fact, there are organizations that arrange carpools for the many people who would otherwise not be able to make it to their polling stations.
A Large Problem Affecting Millions
Every election brings with it reports of the millions of people who did not participate in casting ballots and electing leaders.
Turnout peaked in the 1876 presidential race with 82.6% of eligible voters heading to the polls, but since 1980, presidential elections have averaged a 56.66% turnout rate. And while it's true that many people simply choose not to vote, there are others who cannot get from their homes to their local polling places.
Of those who didn't vote in 2016, 3% reported transportation problems as the reason they sat the election out. The percentages were much higher for voters between 18 and 29 years old. Those transportation issues can come in many forms:
- Physical disability, making driving or even walking to a polling place impossible
- Lack of public transportation, especially in rural and poor areas
- Lack of access to a car
- Inability to afford a driver's license or a cab, Uber, or Lyft ride
- Living too far from the polling place, in combination with any of the above factors
While some public transportation systems across the country offer free rides to the polls on Election Day (Los Angeles, Houston, Tampa, and Dallas were some of the cities to offer this service in 2018), that only scratches the surface of the people unable to vote because they can't get there.
Is Carpooling to Vote Legal?
It is legal for organizations to arrange carpools for voting. If you know people who are unable to get to the polls themselves, it is perfectly acceptable for you to offer to give them a ride to the polls. It is also legal for you to ask a friend for help getting to your local polling place if you need it.
In fact, where public transportation is not an effective option, grassroots organizations have stepped in to fill the void, offering free rides to the polls. One of the biggest organizations is Carpool Vote, which helps people who need a ride connect with local volunteer drivers. Drive the Vote functions similarly, while also advertising that its volunteer drivers can take voters to work after casting a ballot.
Additionally, ride-share services Uber and Lyft offered discounted and free rides to the polls for the 2018 midterm elections. It is likely they will offer the same services in future elections.
What Else Can You Do?
For residents of some states, getting to the polls may not pose as big of an obstacle. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon mail ballots to every eligible voter.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow no-excuse absentee voting. That means all you need to do is request an absentee ballot, which you can fill out and mail in without leaving your home.
Of the remaining states, the following list physical disability as a condition for receiving an absentee ballot:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Of course, even if someone qualifies for an absentee ballot, they may not be registered to vote, for many of the same reasons listed above. If that is the case, there is also no legal impediment to carpooling for the purpose of registering people to vote.
Help Is Available If You Are Stopped
This country has a history of people from marginalized communities facing intimidation for trying to vote. People have been harassed for driving others to the polls. Should you encounter this, there are civil rights attorneys who may be able to help.