Conducting a Voter Registration Drive


This page is designed to aid community members when planning to conduct a voter registration drive. To conduct a successful voting drive, we recommend you follow these steps:

Contact your local CAIR chapter to join your efforts with theirs.

Find your closest CAIR chapter.

Gather a reliable core team.

If CAIR does not have a chapter in your state, gather two to four members of the community to help coordinate the drive.

Choose the date, time and location of the event.

Eid festivals and Jumaah prayers are excellent opportunities. Clear your event with those in charge of the location. Make sure that the timing is convenient and fits into the normal schedule of the community. It's always recommended that you keep in mind that you are serving your community: make registering to vote easy for them. Don't expect them to come to you.

Call or visit your state election office for materials to be used in your voter drives.

The rules change from state to state. In many states the office of the secretary of state is responsible for overseeing elections and information can be found on his or her website. Perform an internet search for "state board of elections" along with your state's name, or simply look up the phone number. Many states will give you forms to have filled out (make sure you ask for the proper method of returning the completed forms), others require attending a short, simple certification course. Make sure that you request enough registration materials. Alternatively, call CAIR and ask for assistance. You can also ask CAIR for free copies of CAIR's Civic Participation Guide. These can be given away during your drive.

Get the answers to some basic questions.

The following questions are common from people registering to vote, ask the elections board representative for the answers: Who can register to vote in the state? Do I have to register by political party? Do I have to re-register if I move? When is the latest I can register for the next election? Do I have to re-register for each election? Where do I vote? When can I expect my voter registration card to arrive?

Inform the community about the drive.

Announce it in advance, perhaps by hanging fliers in local mosques. Ask mosques to announce the drive at Jumaah prayers. Call everyone you have in your email and cell phone contact lists and ask them to commit to calling five other people to invite them to register during your drive.

Contact the media.

Send a media advisory to your local media outlets. Include the answers to what you are doing, when you are doing it, exact street address of where it will occur and a contact name and phone number. Events of this nature are an excellent opportunity to obtain positive media coverage for the community. You can call CAIR and ask for help with this.

Conduct the drive.

Make sure you have read all the form's instructions carefully, and help people in filling out the form. Don't be shy. Approach people and ask if they are registered to vote. Call attention to your effort. At the very least you will need: pens, clipboards and signs announcing that people can register to vote.

Keep track of how many voters you have registered.

Please email and tell us how your drive went, (What worked? What didn't? What advice would you give others? Your experience will benefit future drives) and how many voters you registered.

Return the completed forms.

Completed voter registration forms should be sent to or dropped off at your state election office.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Election Center

If you Don't Vote, Don't Complain

It is essential that American Muslims participate in our nation's democratic process. There are many ways to do this; one of the simplest and most critical is voting in national and local elections. Civic participation, especially voting, is a citizenship right.

It is our duty to give our leaders sincere advice. We should support public officials who prove themselves trustworthy and a benefit to the nation. We should vote to remove them from public office when they do not.

Islam's message is comprehensive, encompassing all aspects of life. Inaction--or worse, cynicism--denies this. If you are not present to give your opinions others will do so for you. Your participation in public affairs protects Muslims and promotes good in society--reducing poverty, making quality medical care easily accessible, and ensuring everyone's civil liberties.

If you're planning to participate in national or state elections by conducting voter registration drives, get-out-the-vote drives or other election activities, we hope you will find these materials helpful:

Muslims should not limit their desire to promote good to any exclusive group. We have strong values and ethics to contribute to American culture. Good Islamic character compels us to care for others and show concern for their problems. Faith should compel us to act in ways that benefit all people.

If you're not already registered, please register to vote!

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Civic Participation Guide

Working Effectively with a Congressional Office


This page is designed help you work more effectively with a congressional office.

According to the Congressional Management Foundation, only 5 to 7 percent of the population communicates with their elected officials. It's fun to share our opinions with our friends and at the dinner table; it's vital that we share these same opinions with those in policy making positions who pass the laws that impact our daily lives, from the taxes we pay to the civil rights we are obliged to protect.

CAIR has shown again and again the power of individuals communicating with decision makers. Put your faith into action and be sure your congressperson addresses the issues that concern you and your family.

Public officials are elected to serve the interests of their constituents. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected by the people living within a defined geographic area in a state known as a congressional district. U.S. senators serve everyone who lives in their state.

You are represented in the U.S. Congress by one representative and two senators.

What can a congressional office do?

Crafting law and shaping policy are among the primary responsibilities of members of congress. Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants congress "all legislative powers" in government. Among these powers are coining money, maintaining the military and regulating commerce. In general, legislative and policy work is handled by the congressperson's office in Washington, D.C.

Another important task for congressional offices is constituent service. This entails everything from helping constituents address major issues with government agencies to sending birthday greetings and flags that have flown over the U.S. Capitol. Congressional offices can also: assist constituents with appointments to U.S. military academies; aid the immigration process; facilitate access to housing assistance and subsidies; help in acquiring information in federal prison cases; and can point entrepreneurs toward government programs that can help their business. In general, this work is handled by the congressperson's office or offices in the district or state he or she represents.

Know your needs; understand their needs

Members of Congress rely on constituents to help them shape their positions regarding the issues of the day. They seek the insights of community leaders and highly-regarded constituents.

When approaching a member of Congress, it is important to be clear about your purpose. As a community leader, you may be looking to foster a long-term relationship. As a concerned citizen, you may want to see action on a particular issue or get your legislator to vote a certain way on an important piece of legislation.

Regardless of your intent or purpose, be specific in your requests and allow yourself the opportunity to follow up. This will ensure that you are building toward a relationship rather than a one-time interaction. For instance asking, "Will you vote in favor of legislation X" or "Will you bring this point up during debate on the House floor" are examples of specific requests. If you are in a position to organize a town hall meeting, inviting the congressperson to visit with the community is another good strategy.

Do not tell the congressperson or their staff that you want to "make them aware of" an issue. Your issue may be fascinating, but their schedules are overloaded. Once they find you are not asking for anything specific, their attention may drift.

Equally important to knowing your goals is understanding the needs of the congressperson and their staff. First and foremost, members of Congress are responsible to the voters in their districts. Voters are the boss and elections are the annual review. You may have the best issue in the world, but if it does not find support in the district it may be hard to convince the congressperson.

It is recommended that you do some reading about the congressperson's views and priorities before your meeting. Information about the congressperson can be found through a visit to his or her website, searching for information about him or her on the internet, or reading articles about him or her in the local paper.

Your reputation

Building a reputation is important. When you call an office, your reputation can result in your phone call going to a decision maker or being transferred to "our convenient general complaint voicemail box that is reviewed daily."

Be honest about what you can and cannot do. Never make promises you can't keep and keep the ones you make. In making a presentation, do not omit information that harms your case but is critical to the issue.

Don't wear out your welcome. Constant visits and letters will strain even the best of friendships. You must balance your need to keep your issue "top of mind" with the reality that a congressional office is inundated with people and issues.

Pitching your issue

As you frame your arguments to elicit support for your concerns, think about how the congressperson adopting the issue will help you both, and how it will impact their district.

Equally, always be able to compromise. On issues where you cannot come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, always maintain basic courtesy. Venting your frustration may be immediately fulfilling, but in the long-term it can lead to a closed door.

Supporting Materials

For congressional consumption, materials supporting your issue should be no longer than five pages. Your first paragraph should clearly state what you are concerned about and what can be done. Research indicates that you have approximately 15 seconds, or 150 words, before the reader decides to continue with what you have written or to move on to something else.

Boil down your arguments to their most basic components, and bullet point key information and requests. Write using short sentences and paragraphs. Massive blocks of text discourage reading by those who already have too much to read. Facts and numbers are important, but don't be afraid to include a personal story that puts a human face on your issue.

There is a good formula to follow in laying out your materials:

  • outline the need for change,
  • propose a specific change,
  • address how workable the change is,
  • review the positive and negative consequences of the change, and
  • rebut any arguments those who hold views different from you might present.

Even if you give the material in print, send it in an electronic form that the office can cut and paste at need. Congressional offices are always seeking good material to help them push issues forward -- be willing to provide it to them.

Congressional staff

Working with staff is important. Frequently, staffers are the office experts on their particular issues. They are also far more accessible than the typical member of Congress. Quickly respond to any requests that staffers make; remember, they are trying to act on your behalf.


Always be willing to build coalitions around issues. Lending your support to the concerns of other communities can bring them on board with your issues. It is sometimes politically easy to turn away from one group, but a coalition representing varied interest groups is harder to ignore.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Best Practices for Participating in a Meeting with a Member of Congress


This page is designed to aid community members prepare for meeting with a member of Congress. In preparation for meeting with a member of Congress, it is recommended to fill out CAIR's elected official meeting planning sheet in conjunction with the information provided on this page.

Who will attend and what is their role?

Avoid delegations larger than five. If the meeting is in DC, two is the best number. Select people who will stay on message and not let their emotions get away from them. Know in advance of the meeting the job you want each member of your team to perform.

What is your outcome?

It is important to be clear about your purpose. Be specific in your requests and create the opportunity to follow up. For instance asking, "Will you vote in favor of legislation X" or "Will you bring this point up during debate on the House floor" are examples of specific requests. Make sure you have a name and contact information so you can follow-up. If you are in a position to organize a town hall with Muslim constituents, inviting the congressperson to visit with the community is another good strategy.

Pitching Your Issue

As you frame your arguments to elicit support for your concerns, think about how the congressperson adopting the issue will help you both, and how it will impact their district. Make adopting your position appealing to their interests. Try to mix a brief personal story in with your facts and figures.

Best Practices

  • Be punctual. Plan on meeting for no more than fifteen minutes; however, be willing to stay longer if the congressperson is receptive.
  • Know the congressperson's views and priorities before your meeting; this will help you frame the most convincing argument. This information can be found through a visit to his or her website, searching the internet, or reading articles about him or her in the local paper. On issues where you cannot come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, always maintain basic courtesy.
  • Be factual and honest. Summarize your three most important points at the beginning and end of the meeting. Never argue motivations, only the merits of the issues.

Things to Avoid

Don't make commitments you cannot keep. Don't tell the congressperson or their staff that you want to "make them aware of" an issue. Once they find you're not asking for anything specific, their attention may drift.

Supporting Materials

Materials supporting your issue should be no more than five pages in length. Your first paragraph should clearly state what you are concerned about and what can be done.

After the Meeting

Fill out a copy of CAIR's lobby meeting report to document the meeting. Send a thank you note to everyone with whom you met. Promptly send any material you promised and take any action to which you committed. Call in two weeks and ask what action has been taken.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Best Practices for Arranging to Meet with Members of Congress


This page is designed to help you arrange to meet with a congressional office.

Put your faith into action, arrange to meet the people who are elected to serve you and share your opinions with them.

  • Research shows that only about 7% of voters contact their elected officials;
  • Congresspersons maintain easy-to-reach in-district offices to serve their constituents;
  • You are not expected to be an expert, just a concerned citizen who has an opinion and maybe a story to go along with it.

Know who represents you

To find out who represents you in the U.S. Congress and how to contact them, click here [Link to CAIR webpage: Contact Your Elected Representatives]. You can also find out by calling the Capitol Hill Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (have your zip code ready) or CAIR at (202) 488-8787.

Get contact information for the member's scheduler

Call the member's office and ask for the proper spelling of the scheduler's name and their fax number and email address.

Send a written request for a meeting

Include the following information: the topic you wish to discuss at the meeting; names of those who will attend, if possible limit your group to no more than five; when you would like to meet and your contact information. Include your address so they can verify that you are a constituent. Members are generally in the district weekends and during congressional recess periods. Members are generally in Washington, D.C. on weekdays.

Send your request

Send the request to the congressperson's scheduler by fax and e-mail.

Confirm the request was received

Wait two business days and then call the scheduler to confirm that your request was received.

Be politely persistent

Be patient and flexible; it may take several calls to get a firm meeting time.

Call the day before

Call the day before your appointment to reconfirm it.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Tips for Calling a Congressional Office


These are guidelines to help you call a congressional office to express your views on any issue.

Simple and Effective Tips for Phone Calls

  • If it makes you feel more comfortable or helps you organize your thoughts, write your key points on a piece of paper before you call.
  • Ask the person to whom you speak for their name and title and write it down.
  • Express how you feel, but avoid being confrontational or argumentative. Always remain polite and professional even if the person you are speaking with seems disinterested or hostile.
  • Present your message clearly and simply.
  • Get to the point quickly.
  • Know what you want the member to do and ask them to do it. ("I want the congressperson to vote in favor of Legislation X.")
  • Ask again for the congressperson to take action.
  • Let the staffer know that you will be following up.
  • Using the person's name, tell the staffer you will be calling them back to track the congressperson's actions on the issue or legislation. (This will create greater responsibility for that particular staffer and will generate more of your comments going directly to the congressperson.)
  • If the Congressperson or the staffer expresses something with which you agree, thank them.
  • Lastly, be sure to follow up on your phone call. It is important for the congressperson to know that they will be held accountable.

Things to Expect When You Call

  • You will most likely speak to a staffer, not the member of Congress. This is normal practice.
  • They will generally ask for your name and contact information, primarily your zip code. This is how the office identifies that you live in their district. They cannot ask your citizenship status.
  • Due to the volume of incoming calls, congressional offices frequently track only calls for or calls against many issues. Frequently, you will not be asked for any details other than whether you support or oppose the issue or legislation.

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Legislative Action Center


Welcome to CAIR's government affairs department legislative action center. We are committed to helping Muslims and all Americans who value civil liberties make their voices heard in Congress, the White House and across the nation.

CAIR encourages you to take action by contacting your elected representatives about legislation and policies that impact the civil rights of American Muslims.

Muslim Americans have the benefit of the guidance, support and wisdom of the many minority groups who have fought discrimination before us. CAIR believes that is the Muslim community's civic duty to stand firmly for Islamic and constitutional principles in the face of efforts to erode the liberties our nation's founders implemented. Not to do so would be a failure to honor the struggle of those before us and a disservice to the next minority that will be the subject of fear, misunderstanding and discrimination.

In the following pages, you will find tips and best practices for:

Click on any of the action alerts or videos below for specific details on how you can get involved. Also check out our past action alerts and videos.

Current CAIR Action Alerts

CAIR Action Alert -- Ask Congress to Remove Detention Provisions from NDAA (5-21-2012) [Link to AA]

Congress has once again begun consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 (NDAA). While this annual defense authorization act provides valuable funding for the Armed Forces, it also contains misleading provisions that fail to put an end to threat of indefinite military detention within the United States.

CAIR is urging everyone who cares about civil liberties to contact their members of Congress and ask them to support legislation that reaffirms the due process rights of all Americans and repairs the damage done to the U.S. Constitution by last year's NDAA. (Read more)

CAIR Action Alert -- Tell Congress to End Racial Profiling (5-1-2012) [Link to AA]

Last fall Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the End Racial Profiling Act of 2011 (S.1670/H.R. 3618). If passed, this act will promote measures to eliminate profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion by federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

At the same time, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Conyers have gathered signatures from 13 senators and 53 representatives asking the Department of Justice to change its policy on racial profiling. Revisions to the guidance include measures that will prevent profiling based on religion and national origin and eliminate loopholes that permit profiling at U.S. borders and for reasons of national security. (Read more)

CAIR is urging everyone who cares about civil liberties to contact to contact their members of Congress and ask them to end racial profiling in America.

Past CAIR Legislative Action Alerts

Urge Kansas Governor Not to Sign Anti-Sharia Bill (5-15-2012) [Link to AA]

Tell Congress to End Indefinite Detention (5-9-2012) [Link to AA]

Ask Elected Officials to Oppose South Dakota Anti-Sharia Bill (2-22-2012) [Link to AA]

Say No to Indefinite Military Detention of U.S. Citizens (12-6-2011) [Link to AA]

Ask Senate to Reject Detaining U.S. Citizens Without Charge or Trial (12-1-2011) [Link to AA]

Ask Congress to Remove Language Targeting Muslims from DHS Bills (10-19-2011) [Link to AA]

CAIR Video Action Alert: Rally Against Torture June 24th in Washington, D.C.
CAIR Video Action Alert: Call for an End to Racial Profiling in America

CAIR Video Action Alert: Urge Kansas Governor to Veto Anti-Sharia Bill (5/15/12)
CAIR Video Action Alert: Ask Elected Officials to Oppose South Dakota Anti-Sharia Bill (2-22-12)
CAIR Video Action Alert: Ask President Obama to Veto Indefinite Detention of U.S. Citizens (12-30-11)

Want to know more? Need help or advice? Call CAIR and talk to our government affairs department.

Help Reform TSA Training Procedures on Civil Rights

Legislative Fact Sheet

(October 2011)

The Issue

  • Current Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workforce education programs do not provide sufficient enough time, training or resources on passenger civil rights to prevent security personnel from screening passengers based on race, ethnicity, national origin or religion.
  • CAIR has consistently encouraged the TSA to eliminated bias in its trainings and amongst security personnel by adopting screening measures that do not rely on protected characteristics to identify security threats. However, a number of recent high profile civil rights cases illustrate that the TSA has not yet eliminated such biases.
  • The civil rights of all passengers remain threatened by not adequately training transportation security officers. Without adequate civil rights training, TSA pilot programs like Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) are also left vulnerable to mismanagement, manipulation or abuse.

What is being asked of members of Congress?

  • Support comprehensive reform of TSA workforce education programs to require sufficient enough time, training and resources on passenger civil rights. Revise the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act of 2011 to include:
  • An amendment to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107-71), that:
    • Increases the number of hours required for initial screener classroom instruction and on-the-job training in TSA policies and procedures that protect and promote the civil rights of all passengers.
    • Requires in the annual proficiency reviews of security personnel a demonstration of the knowledge and skills necessary to perform screening in compliance with passenger civil rights.
  • A provision that prevents the use of trainers who demonstrate bias toward Islam and Muslims or other minorities.

Reasons to Support

Current TSA policies and procedures require passenger screenings to be based on specific observed behaviors and not on appearance, race, ethnicity or religion. However, transportation security officers do not always practice such guidelines due to lack of training, bias in trainings, and in some unfortunate cases, personal bias.

  • A Lack of Sufficient Training: In October 2010, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General released a critical report of the TSA's screening workforce training program. The report found that the "TSA does not ensure that [transportation security officers] (TSOs) are provided the time they need to effectively complete training requirements," and that, "TSOs described rushing through course material without devoting the attention needed to retain the lessons."
  • Only Two to Three Weeks of Training: TSA officers are not provided with enough time to adequately train. Current workforce training programs for TSOs only consist of 40 hours of initial screener classroom instruction and 60 hours of on-the-job training. Those selected as behavior detection officers (BDOs) for the SPOT program only undergo four days of behavioral classroom instruction and analysis, and 24 hours of on-the-job training.
  • Training Procedures Promote Stereotypes (I): Recent media accounts in May 2011 criticized the TSA for hiring an individual who appeared Middle Eastern/South Asian in descent to test screeners at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by carrying a shaving kit made to look like a bomb. Civil rights advocates believe that when the TSA resorts to ethnic and religious stereotypes in training drills, it leads to inappropriate profiling in passenger screenings.
  • Training Procedures Promote Stereotypes (II): Recent media accounts in May 2011 also criticized DHS, which oversees the TSA, for sponsoring a South Dakota Department of Public Safety conference that paid Islamophobe Walid Shoebat to speak at the event. Shoebat claims that "Islam is the devil," there are "many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam," and that President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Programs Susceptible to Civil Rights Abuses: According to an internal TSA investigation, known as the "Boston Report," from early 2008 to late 2009, BDOs engaged in widespread racial profiling at the Newark Liberty International Airport. Specifically, BDOs would single out Mexican and Dominican passengers as a way to drive-up immigration referrals. BDOs would then falsify behavioral reports to justify their scrutiny. BDOs engaged in such practices were nicknamed "Mexican hunters" by colleagues.
  • Screeners Lack Training on Civil Rights (I): In August 2009, college student Nick George was interrogated, handcuffed and detained for nearly five hours at the Philadelphia International Airport because TSOs had discovered a set of English-Arabic flashcards on his person. The TSA's treatment of Mr. George was a violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights to free speech and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Screeners Lack Training on Civil Rights (II): In January 2009, TSA officials and JetBlue Airways paid $240,000 to Raed Jarrad to settle charges that they had discriminated against him because of his ethnicity and wearing a T-shirt with Arabic writing. In order to board the plane, the TSA forced Mr. Jarrad to cover up his T-shirt with another T-shirt and made him ride in the back of the plane. Such actions were a clear violation of Mr. Jarrad's right to free speech and expression and DOJ's 2003 guideline on racial profiling.

Federal Prison Communications Management Units

Legislative Fact Sheet

October 2011

The Issue

  • What are CMUs? In 2006 and 2008, in secret and without the opportunity for public review the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) created Communications Management Units (CMUs). CMUs are prison units designed to isolate and segregate certain prisoners from the rest of the federal population. Unlike other BOP prisoners, CMU prisoners are completely banned from any physical contact with visiting family members and friends and their telephone communications are severely limited.
  • CMUs disproportionately target American Muslims. Currently there are two CMUs nationwide that house between 60 and 70 prisoners in total. However, two-thirds of those prisoners are Muslim, even though Muslims represent only 6 percent of federal prison population.
    • At the Marion-Illinois CMU, 72 percent of the population is Muslim, 1,200 percent higher than the national average of Muslim prisoners in federal prison facilities.
    • At the Terre Haute-Indiana CMU, its prison population is approximately two-thirds Muslim, an overrepresentation of 1,000 percent.
  • CMUs lack transparency and violate due process. CMU prisoners do not received any meaningful explanation of the reasons why they were transferred to CMUs or what evidence was used to make that decision. They also do not receive a hearing to challenge their CMU designation. Likewise, there is no meaningful review process through which they might earn their way out of the CMU.

What is being asked of the U.S. Senate?

On October 7, twelve House members wrote to BOP with questions and concerns about the policies and practices at CMUs, and the circumstances under which they were established. We ask that you reemphasis the House's concern and support a Senate letter of inquiry to BOP demanding that it clarify:

  • Why are CMU inmates not informed of the evidence used to determine their designation in CMUs?
  • Why is there no review process through which CMU inmates might earn their way out of CMUs?
  • If CMU inmate communications are being closely monitored, why are they not allowed contact visits?
  • Why did BOP determine that it is not necessary for inmates to have communications-related infractions before being placed in CMUs, given the focus on the monitoring of inmate communication?
  • What accounts for the large percentage of Muslims in CMUs?

Reasons to Support Reform of the Communication Management Unit Program

  • In 2010, two years after the fact, BOP finally disclosed CMU polices for public comment as required by law. While BOP is expected to release its final rules governing CMU facilities by October 2011, Congress should act now to ensure that these questions are properly addressed in BOP's final rulemaking.
  • As stated above, CMUs lack transparency, violate due process, and disproportionately target American Muslims housed in the federal prison system. In addition, the Center for Constitutional Rights reports that BOP has an unchecked pattern of retaliatory and discriminatory designation of Muslim prisoners and politically active prisoners to CMUs.
  • Although many CMU prisoners have been classified as low security by the BOP and have clean disciplinary histories, their communication with family, friends, and the outside world is severely restricted without clarification or justification. CMUs' visitation policies are even more restrictive than that of ADX Florence, the BOP's "supermax" prison. This policy runs counter to BOP acknowledging the critical importance of communications and visitation to the rehabilitation and re-entry of prisoners.

Note: This document contains text produced by the Center for Constitutional Rights.