Strategy 2 Empowered Voters

Paid Voter Orientation

Strategy 2
Empowered Voters

Recommendation 2.6

Establish, through state legislatures and/or offices of secretaries of state, paid voter orientation for voters participating in their first federal election, analogous to a combination of jury orientation and jury pay. Most states use short videos produced by the state judicial system to provide jurors with a nonpolitical orientation to their duty; first-time voters should receive a similar orientation to their duty.

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A confusing process

Hanging chads, confusing ballot designs, undercounts, failing apps, verifiable ballots: seemingly every election cycle brings new stories about the challenges that Americans face in casting and counting votes. For first-time voters, the process can be confusing, intimidating, and suspect.

Benefits of voter orientation

Voter orientation would help introduce first-time voters to the voting process and would make voting a less intimidating and more accessible activity. Many first-time voters either never received voter orientation—in school, for example—or may be new to a jurisdiction and unfamiliar with its procedures. Voters should be compensated for their time.  

Paid first-time voter orientation is a new concept that should be vetted through pilot programs in association with secretaries of state and other election administrators. How voters would be paid would vary from state to state.

The Model of Jury Duty

Jury duty is a legally required act of citizenship, but Americans are not asked to serve without some guidance. Most states use short videos produced by their state judicial system to orient jurors to jury duty.

State jury-orientation videos provide a good model for voter-orientation videos. They should offer a history of voting generally and of voting rights in the United States; they should explain the value of voting to our constitutional democracy; and they should offer specific information about the voting process itself.

“Voting is a lot of work … it is. I dropped my two girls off to vote at their first voting. They had no clue … They’re not taught. They don’t know about the ballots … It scared them to go in…They’re walking in there, and they’re like, ‘We don’t want to go in.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, go in and vote, do whatever.’ …And then when they came out they were like, ‘We didn’t know what to put on the ballot. We didn’t know … there’s so many questions’.”
—Charlotte, North Carolina
“Just bring a machine to every school . . . That’s where we need to build more firsthand experience with the process, to have someone fully feel like they can be confident, and own that.”
—Lexington, Kentucky

Champion

RepresentWomen and Faithful Democracy are committed to working to implement this recommendation in order to help reinvent American democracy for the 21st century.

RepresentWomen works to advance women's representation and leadership through research and advocacy on data-driven systems strategies that enable all women to run, win, serve, and lead in appointed and elected offices in the United States.

Faithful Democracy is a multi-faith coalition of faith-based organizations and congregations who share the moral imperative of fixing our democratic systems. While our partners represent a diversity of beliefs and traditions, we unite around the common goal of creating a healthier, thriving democracy. 

See the full list of Our Common Purpose Champions.

In order to implement Recommendation 2.6 by 2026, the Commission proposes the following milestones to complete by year-end of:

2020

  • Announce a joint task force within the National Association of Secretaries of State and State Election Directors to study the concept, including the availability of funds from the Help America Vote Act to support a pilot initiative

2021

  • Identify fours states willing to pilot this concept.

2022

  • Achieve scope of work documents for the project in those four states.

2024

  • Produce and deliver voter orientation videos to first-time voters in those four states.

2025

  • Assess the pilot program; determine whether to recommend expansion.

2026

  • Presuming success of the pilot, recruit a larger network of states into participation.