Using Federal and Local Tools to Defend and Expand Voting Access

Are you working on the front lines of efforts to defend and expand voting access in your state? This playbook is for you.

Many pro-voter organizations—particularly those in red states—find themselves playing defense at the state capitol, without the bandwidth to consider other ways to drive change. The Democracy Protection Playbook aims to accelerate their work by equipping them with federal and local tools that can’t be preempted, along with the success stories that prove those tools’ effectiveness.


Federal Tools

  • An executive order that expands in-state voter registration opportunities
  • Time-honored naturalization ceremonies
  • A potential partnership with the Department of Justice around enforcement


Local Tools

  • Local agencies that are empowered to register voters
  • Official communications that incorporate voter registration information 
  • Increased voter registration opportunities at high schools
  • Ballot access for eligible incarcerated citizens 
  • Well-implemented Vote Centers
  • Free public transportation to the polls

The promise of American democracy is not real until the state in which you live no longer determines your access to the ballot box.


The promise of American democracy is fulfilled only when all eligible voters have the same level of ballot access, no matter which state they live in. But today, nearly half of the country lives in states that make voting more difficult. Most of the rest live in states making it easier. Democracy’s promise hangs in the widening gap between the two.

We know this firsthand from our work in states on each side of this divide: where you live often determines how—and whether—you are able to cast a ballot. 

Progress can seem improbable. Many of the states that restrict voting access the most are home to the legislatures least likely to make improvements. With the right to vote increasingly under threat, advocacy organizations in these states must find a way to work faster and more efficiently. 

But there is good news. Where one-size-fits-all solutions fail, or where national actors are unable to accomplish their goals, nonpartisan advocacy organizations are uniquely positioned to make a difference. Well-informed advocates have the tools to effectively target solutions and policies to the unique context of their state.

This playbook is designed to fuel state-based advocates’ work by sharpening their strategies. It will help identify already-accessible levers of power that anti-voter legislatures cannot overrule or preempt. It will also help clarify for national leaders what is needed most in the states that receive the least attention.

Our democracy’s most fundamental right should be equally accessible, no matter which state an eligible voter lives in. We believe this playbook can help bridge the gap between states on both sides of the divide. We cannot wait to see how state-based advocates use it to drive change.

Carolina Lopez 
Executive Director
Partnership for Large Election Jurisdictions

Charley Olena 
Vice President of Advocacy 
Secure Democracy USA

Sam Oliker-Friedland
Executive Director
Institute for Responsive Government


Shanna Singh Hughey
The Democracy Protection Playbook