This page is designed to aid community members or organizations who want to create voter guides. A voter guide is a document that provides information to help voters to vote.
A basic voter guide gives information about how, when and where to vote. An advanced guide adds information about the positions of different candidates. The goal in creating this kind of guide is to give voters information to help them find the candidate(s) whose positions on key issues most closely align with their own. As an example, you can see CAIR’s 2012 presidential voter guide here. Comprehensive voter guides can also be created for ballot initiatives, amendments or any other item that will appear on a voter’s ballot.
Advanced voter guides should provide objective information that accurately represents the views of all major candidates without seeking to influence voters toward a particular candidate or party.
Remember, if the guide is produced by a nonprofit organization it must be unbiased and nonpartisan to avoid jeopardizing the organization’s nonprofit status. It is imperative that nonprofit organizations be impartial when describing all candidates and proposals.
If you’re planning to create voter guides, here are some recommended steps to take.
Contact your local CAIR chapter to join your efforts with theirs.
Find the closest CAIR chapter.
Gather a reliable team.
It’s a lot easier to do all the research necessary to create a voter guide when you’re not working alone. If CAIR doesn’t have a chapter in your state, gather two to four members of the community to help you.
Gather information for the voter guide.
At the beginning of the voter guide it is a good idea to briefly emphasize why it is imperative for all eligible members of the Muslim community to vote.
- Provide information on the following topics related to voting. You can find the answers to most on your state board of elections website (Search: “[your state]” and “board of elections.) Try to keep the material shorter than two pages so your final handout is only one sheet (double-sided).
- When to vote (date of the election and times polls are open).
- How to find the addresses of polling places.
- What form of identification, if any, is required.
- How to verify that you are registered (usually a phone number or website).
- Brief outline of voter rights (each state generally lists your rights at the polls).
- An avenue to address problems such as discrimination at the polls (usually a phone number. You can recommend that they also contact CAIR).
- Who do I vote for? In the most basic voter guide, the answer is: “[Organization name] does not endorse campaigns or candidates. Major newspapers may produce a guide to candidate positions.”
- Who is eligible for and how to cast an absentee ballot.
- Does your state allow early voting? How can someone vote early?
In addition to the content in the basic guide, provide information on the following topics:
- A brief description of every candidate running for election and their priorities. Separate the candidates first by what office they are running for and second by party. List all candidates for a particular office.
- List candidate stances on issues of concern to the general population (Note: Do not try to pick and choose issues that will bias voters’ candidate choices.) This information can be obtained by going to the candidates’ websites, looking in the paper, or running an internet search. Find out what political action committees have supported each candidate and who has endorsed each candidate.
- Some good issues to focus on include: education, civil rights, homeland security, deficit and health care.
Provide information on the following topic
- Ballot measures: include a list of all the propositions that will be on the ballot along with a description of each. These are usually on state board of elections websites or the websites of major local papers. You may also want to include arguments for and against supporting each proposition.
- Extras: Include a sample ballot.
If producing the guide for a nonprofit organization or mosque, include a disclaimer stating “As a registered nonprofit, [name of organization/mosque] does not endorse campaigns or candidates.”
Distribute the voter guide
Distribute your guides free-of-charge to the entire Muslim community. Two excellent ways to do this are through local mosques and online.
Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.