Net Election

Last-Minute Activism

A lazy man’s guide.

If you missed Joementum, never made it to Fahrenheit 9/11, and couldn’t figure out what those Swift Boat guys were upset about, don’t worry—there’s still time to get involved in the presidential election. Sure, other people have been organizing voters and donating cash for 18 months, but Election Day’s still three whole weeks away. Here’s Slate’sguide for the last-minute activist who still dreams of getting off the couch and getting involved some day real soon.

If you can miss a few weeks of work and don’t mind standing up all day, the most demanding—and likely the most important—jobs still up for grabs involve supporting get-out-the-vote drives in swing states. The liberal group America Coming Together’s ACT Here program is soliciting volunteers for door-to-door Election Day canvassing in 14 battleground states. In addition to in-person visits, ACT canvassers will remind voters to head to the polls by launching a barrage of phone calls and staking out major intersections. A variety of other groups—from the AFL-CIO’s Fight for America’s Working Families to MoveOn PAC’s Leave No Voter Behind—are organizing liberal voters as well. The progressive policy site Moving Ideas maintains a list of such organizations, as does the umbrella group America Votes.

There aren’t as many independent conservative groups organizing their own GOTV drives. If you want to goose Republican turnout, your best bet is to help out with the Republican National Committee’s 72 Hour Program. The majority of the RNC’s volunteers will work to get voters to the polls via “phone calling and door-to-door knocking.” The RNC is also still looking for volunteers with special skills. For instance, the RNC’s “roving legal team” is looking for lawyers who are available to respond to GOP poll watchers’ concerns.

While both sides’ optimistic battleground lists include states in virtually every corner of the country, most people can’t be bothered to spend a couple of days knocking on doors in the Phoenix exurbs or the Appalachian Mountains. If you’re looking for a less intense experience, both campaigns still want volunteers in all 50 states. George Bush’s re-election campaign is organizing walks—and for the extraordinarily lazy, parties—to rally the faithful nationwide. You can visit the Bush ‘04 Web site to host a walk or join an existing one. If you’re not feeling up to leaving the house, you can just add your name to the Bush campaign’s volunteer list—you might be called on to help build e-mail lists and send out official campaign spin. The Kerry campaign is asking people to sign up for their volunteer center, which gives you access to fund-raising, organizing, and outreach information. Latecomers will be asked to write letters to newspapers and call local radio stations to spread the Kerry message. (If you’re too out of it to figure out what to emphasize, the campaign’s “Media Corps” offers concise talking points.)

If even composing an e-mail is too taxing, the campaigns have made it easy to donate money online. Both Kerry and Bush are soliciting cash for their “General Election Legal and Accounting Compliance” funds. While federal law bars the candidates from raising campaign funds after they’ve received their parties’ nominations, Bush and Kerry are allowed to raise funds to cover post-election expenses. Pessimists take note: This money could be used to defray the legal costs of a recount. You can also contribute directly to the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee. Although the candidates themselves won’t get the money, the parties can use the cash to air issue ads that frame the race in terms favorable to their candidate.

Finally, you can get still get involved by actually voting. While many states require you to register 30 days before an election, some have later deadlines—seven states even allow registration on Election Day itself. The League of Women Voters has an online guide to help you figure out whether you can still register. If you haven’t missed the deadline in your state, the nonpartisan group Declare Yourself lets you register online. The site also lets you find your polling place, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a swing state, you probably don’t need to bother. Someone more involved than you will no doubt show up at your front door to drive, drag, or carry you there.