Can I Drive People to the Polls or Carpool?

Yes, you can drive people to the polls to help them vote. Some organizations arrange carpools for the many people who would otherwise be unable to reach their polling station or ballot drop box.

Voter Turnout

Voter turnout isn't just crucial to the success of a particular political campaign; it is also a significant sign of civic participation. Unfortunately, millions of Americans do not actively take part in casting ballots and electing leaders.

Voter Turnout History

American voter 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 choose not to vote, others can't get from their homes to their local polling places to vote in person. While these statistics cover federal elections, voter turnout is critical during all phases of an election cycle, including the following:

  • Primary elections
  • General elections

Reasons For Poor Voter Turnout

Of those who didn't vote in 2016, 3% reported transportation problems as the reason they sat the election out. These transportation issues can come in many forms:

  • Physical disability, making driving or even walking to the polling location 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, that only scratches the surface of the people unable to vote because they can't get there.

Paying for Rides to Polling Stations

State election officials administer local and federal elections, so each state has its own election laws. Michigan, for example, used to ban organizations from paying for rides to polling stations unless the voter had a physical disability. Although Michigan's Legislature overturned this law in 2023, you should confirm with your Secretary of State's office before paying for rides to the polls.

Is Carpooling to Vote Legal?

It is legal for organizations to arrange carpools for voting. If you know people who cannot get to the polls or ballot dropbox themselves, you can offer to give them a ride to the polls. It is also legal to ask a friend for help getting to your local polling place or ballot drop box if needed.

Carpooling Alternatives

You have options if you don't have a vehicle or access to a vehicle. As mentioned above, some localities, like Hampton Roads, Virginia, offer free public transportation on Election Day to help more voters get to polling stations. There is some resistance to free public transportation to the polls, as shown by recent legislation in Indiana to ban this public service.

Moreover, where public transportation is not an option, grassroots organizations are filling the void, offering free rides to the polls. One of the most prominent organizations is Carpool Vote, which helps people who need a ride connect with local volunteer drivers.

Also, ride-share services Uber and Lyft offered discounted and free rides to the polls for the 2018 midterm elections. They will likely offer the same services in future elections.

Other Voting Options

For residents of some states, getting to the polls may not pose these obstacles — 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 you only need to 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 getting an absentee ballot:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Of course, even if someone qualifies for an absentee ballot, they still need to register to vote. Often, transportation is a barrier to registration. If that's the case, you can carpool for voter registration.

Get Legal Help

Although America has a history of voter suppression, it is illegal to interfere with someone's right to vote. If you have faced harassment for driving others to polling stations or want to learn more about your state's election laws, a civil rights attorney can help. Speak to an experienced civil rights attorney today.

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