Registering to vote

Earth911 is honoring the 52 years that Earth Day has been inspiring action with 52 Actions for the Earth. The Earth Day theme this year is investing in the planet. Each week from Earth Day 2022 to Earth Day 2023, we will share an action you can take to invest in the Earth and make your own life more sustainable. We shouldn’t only act for the Earth on Earth Day, and we shouldn’t only vote for the president. Local and interim elections are as important as the “big” ones because they determine things like schools, zoning, tree ordinances, and other issues with immediate environmental impacts.

This week, you can invest in the Earth by registering to vote.

Action: Register to Vote

Political Power

Individual actions like recycling and driving less are critical. But a municipal solid waste contract that incentivizes recycling will have more impact than your personal commitment to sorting waste. And with the stroke of a pen, a new federal law setting higher fuel efficiency standards will cut more emissions than giving up your car. That is not cause for despair, because individuals can influence government policy. Our elected officials may not pay as much attention as they should to the opinions of their constituents. But Americans have a powerful way to make politicians listen. We can fire them by voting them out of office and replacing them with someone whose views match our own. Voting further increases our clout, because elected officials keep track of who votes. A letter or phone call from an active voter is more powerful than one from someone who isn’t even registered.

Registering to Vote

Each state makes its own voting and election rules, including when and how to register. The grounds are shifting under voter registration laws these days, with some states working to make voting easier, while others are making it harder. Check with your state or local election office to get the most detailed and up-to-date information for where you live. In Oregon, voter registration is automatic and it’s possible to vote by mail ahead of the actual election. Meanwhile, in Texas, polling places are few and far between and registration is cut off a full month before an election. That’s why it’s important to find out about your state’s registration requirements early. If you wait to register until election day is imminent, you might be too late to vote.

The first step is to find out if you are already registered. If you are already registered, take the next step and find the date of your next local election. CNN maintains a nationwide calendar of midterm elections.

If you are not registered to vote, 42 states and the District of Columbia allow online voter registration. If your state is not one of them, you must look up your state’s election office website for state-wide voting guidance. Find your local election office contact information for answers to questions about polling locations, in-person registration, and other local questions.

By Gemma Alexander

Gemma Alexander has an M.S. in urban horticulture and a backyard filled with native plants. After working in a genetics laboratory and at a landfill, she now writes about the environment, the arts and family. See more of her writing here.