TurboVote Toolkit

Plan Your Year

Don’t let election day sneak up on you! An effective voter engagement program takes preparation, and the TurboVote Partnerships team is here to help.

Download planning worksheet

Election dates and deadlines

Taking into account the various dates and deadlines that affect your students is the backbone to planning your year. For example, you’ll want to make sure any registration drives leave enough time for your students to get their forms in ahead of the registration deadline, not just before the election! Making a timeline is simple, and our questions to consider below are a great place to start.

When are your elections?

The first step in planning the timeline for your year is to gather information about upcoming elections. Find out when your local elections are, and be sure to have that information on hand when you meet with the TurboVote Partnerships team.

When are the relevant registration deadlines?

Deadlines for registering to vote can vary quite a bit from state to state. TurboVote sends reminders to students when registration deadlines are approaching to make sure they’ve sent in their registration materials, but it's important that you are also aware of these deadlines when planning your outreach. The TurboVote Partnerships team can work with you and our in-house researcher to determine when your local registration deadlines are, and when may be your best times for voter registration outreach.

When are the relevant vote-by-mail deadlines?

Every state has a process for eligible voters to vote using a mail-in ballot (restrictions on voting by mail vary by state). Voting by mail can be very helpful for students who are voting at home while living elsewhere for college as well as students who are simply too busy to find the time to head to the polls on Election Day. The rules for how and when to request a mail-in ballot vary dramatically across the country. TurboVote helps users get, fill out, and mail in the necessary vote-by-mail forms for their elections.

Again, it can be very helpful for your voter engagement program to be aware of the vote-by-mail deadlines that affect your students and to plan outreach and special follow-up related to those milestones. Once you have identified what elections are on the horizon for your students, the TurboVote Partnerships team can help you pinpoint the relevant deadlines for voting by mail in those elections.

When is the TurboVote mail cutoff deadline?

Because of the realities of the speed of “snail mail,” there is an additional deadline you will need to be aware of—the cutoff date for students requesting a TurboVote mailing. The TurboVote Partnerships team recommends that students do not request a TurboVote mailing when a relevant deadline is less than two weeks away. At that point, students should instead print the forms generated by TurboVote and mail them in themselves. Your TurboVote site will also surface a warning message on the page at which students typically request a mailing, recommending they select "I'll print my own" instead. 

Campus dates and deadlines

Next, take into account campus-specific dates and deadlines as you build out potential engagement events. Make a list of events that might work well for both some in-person and some online TurboVote outreach. You should also keep in mind your school’s academic calendar and how your TurboVote outreach can play off of these existing events. For example, using TurboVote for a voter registration drive as new students are moving into residence halls or going through orientation can be a great way to reach many students at once.

Keep in mind that your academic calendar may affect what TurboVote services your students may want to sign up for. If students are planning to vote in a primary, local, or special election when your institution is not in session, they may need to request their absentee ballots be sent to a different address.

Annual milestones

  • Spring—plan for summer orientation programs.
  • Summer—plan for IT integration. Get resources together for sending an all-campus email when classes begin.
  • Fall—voter engagement season! This is the best time for tabling, mass emails, campus competitions, and more.
  • Winter—now that fall is over, take a moment and assess your progress. Are you on track to meet your goals? Get in touch with the TurboVote Partnerships team if you need any help!

Your goals, strategies, & tactics

Finally, decide what exactly you'd like to do with TurboVote within the next year. Work with your TurboVote Partnerships team contact to identify some goals. It's important to set achievable goals and even some “stretch" goals, or goals that might be difficult, maybe even unlikely, to achieve, but are so great that you’d like to push for them anyway!

Once you've decided on your goals, it's time to think about the strategies and tactics that can help you achieve them. This Toolkit is full of ideas and examples on how to use TurboVote to boost your voter engagement program. Take a look through the Toolkit and jot down what approaches make sense for you. TurboVote has been used to great success by a wide variety of institutions, all with different structures, student bodies, approaches, schedules, and budgets. Not every voter engagement tactic included in this Toolkit will work for every school, but we've included a variety of approaches and tactics so that there is something useful and actionable for every one of our partners.

Your people

One of the greatest resources you have at your disposal are the people at your institution and in your community. Think about who in your institution — on your campus or at another campus, in your department or in a different department, colleagues or students — might have the skills, interest, and motivation to help you implement your voter engagement plan. Check out our Campus Coalitions or Community Outreach pages for more details. As always, the TurboVote Partnerships team is here to help, with whatever questions you have or support you may need. Our goal is to make sure you can make this year your most successful year yet!

Working with other people’s timelines

As a TurboVote implementer, you will likely be working with students, faculty, staff, and other administrators to put your voter engagement plans into action. When planning your year, make sure to take into account the schedules, deadlines, and availability of these people. If you want to give a presentation to new students during orientation, you’ll need to be aware of orientation planning deadlines and make sure you can work within that schedule. If you'd like to send out an all-campus email, you may need to plan quite a bit ahead to make sure the email is reviewed and approved by the appropriate staff.