Voter Registration and Ballot Measure Advocacy Resources

Health centers can play a vital role in helping their patients register to vote and understand the election process in your state.  CHAMPS has assembled a collection of resources on HRSA-compliant issue advocacy and voter registration policies for health centers, as well as information on voter registration for Region VIII states.

Please follow the links below for:

FAQs on Voter Registration and Ballot Measure Advocacy
General Resources
Voter Registration Resources
Ballot Measure Advocacy Resources
Other Useful Websites
State-Specific Resources

Frequently Asked Questions on Voter Registration and Ballot Measure Advocacy

What type of political activities are nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations and employees not allowed to engage in?

A 501(c)(3) organization or staff member while representing the organization may not:

  • Endorse a candidate
  • Make a campaign contribution to or expenditure for a candidate
  • Rate candidates on who is most favorable to their issues
  • Let candidates use the organization’s facilities or resources, unless those resources are made equally available to all candidates at their fair market value

What are permissible political activities for nonprofit organizations?

Nonprofits may engage in a wide range of nonpartisan (non-party affiliated or neutral) activities to encourage participation, educate voters, and talk to candidates about their issues.  Examples of these activities include:

  • Conducting or promoting voter registration
  • Hosting or co-sponsoring a candidate forum
  • Distributing non-partisan sample ballots, candidate questionnaires, or voter guides
  • Continuing issue advocacy during an election
  • Educating voters on the voting process
  • Encouraging staff to serve as poll workers
  • Educating the candidates on your issues
  • Organizing Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) activities
  • Encouraging and reminding people to vote
  • Supporting or opposing a ballot measure (note: this activity is considered lobbying by the IRS – please see below for additional information on rules around lobbying)

What is lobbying?

Lobbying is an attempt to influence the passage or defeat of laws, resolutions, or similar items by Congress or a state or local legislative body, or a referendum, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.

Is it okay for a health center to lobby?

Yes. Health centers, like all organizations exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, may lobby for or against legislation. In fact, lobbying on issues affecting its clients may be an important means for a Section 501(c)(3) to accomplish its mission.  However, there are two important qualifications:

  • Federal grant funds may NOT be used to pay for any lobbying expenses (e.g. staff time, space costs, telephone costs, postage, photocopying, facsimiles, printing, travel reimbursement, etc.)
  • A health center’s lobbying activities cannot constitute a “substantial part” of the center’s total activities

Nonprofits must disclose lobbying expenditures on their Form 990.  In addition to reporting federal, state and local lobbying expenditures on their Form 990, nonprofit organizations may also be required to register with Congress and report activities and expenses in accordance with the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) if they meet certain thresholds. An organization must register if both:

  • The organization has an employee who is a “lobbyist,” AND
  • The organization’s total federal lobbying expenses are expected to exceed $12,500 during a quarter.

Nonprofits who do not wish to use the “substantial part” test outlined above may elect to operate such activities under Section 501(h) of the tax code.  For more information on the 501(h) expenditure test, click here.

If your organization is a HRSA grantee:

Information on lobbying for HRSA grantees can be found in the HRSA SF-424 Application Guide.

Per page 11 of the HRSA SF-424 Application Guide, organizations that receive grant funds from HRSA must complete the required Certification Regarding Lobbying Form and, if applicable, the Disclosure of Lobbying Activities Form provided with the application package.

Per page 35 of the HRSA SF-424 Application Guide, lobbying is generally unallowable, including costs of lobbying activities to influence the introduction, enactment, or modification of legislation by the U.S. Congress or a state legislature. Under certain circumstances, as provided in the applicable cost principles, costs associated with activities that might otherwise be considered “lobbying” that are directly related to the performance of a grant or cooperative agreement may be allowable. The recipient should obtain an advance understanding with the Grants Management Specialist if it intends to engage in these activities.

Restrictions on lobbying for HRSA grantees can be found on pages 36-37 of the HRSA SF-424 Application Guide.

For more information on the rules and regulations surrounding lobbying for HHS grantees, click here.

FAQs adapted from materials provided by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), Community Health Vote, and Nonprofit Vote.

More information on Lobbying for Nonprofit Organizations:
Lobbying Compliance Frequently Asked Questions
Nonprofits and Lobbying: Yes, They Can!
The Nonprofit Lobbying Guide
Everyday Advocacy

General Resources

 

Nonprofit Vote
Checklist of permissible advocacy and voter engagement activities for 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations
501(c)(3) Permissible Activities Checklist
Spanish Language Version

Fact sheet on permissible engagement activities for nonprofit staff members
What Nonprofit Staff Can Do

Voter Registration Resources

Providing information about voting and registering patients to vote is an integral way that health centers can help their patients have their voices heard at a local, state, and federal level.  Registering patients to vote and conducting voter engagement activities is not only permissible under IRS rules, it is highly encouraged!

Community Health Vote
A complete guide to registering voters for community health centers
Health Center Toolkit

Sample form to include in patient registration packets
This Health Center Offers Voter Registration form

Guidance on running a waiting room voter registration table
Registering Voters in the Waiting Room

Nonprofit Vote
A guide to getting started with voter registration, education, and get out the vote (GOTV) activities for nonprofit organizations
A Voter Participation Starter Kit

A checklist to planning a successful voter registration drive
A Voter Registration Checklist
Spanish Version

Ballot Measure Advocacy Resources

Ballot measure advocacy is attempting to influence the passage or defeat of a law or a constitutional amendment.  Because this activity is nonpartisan in nature, it is permissible by the IRS for 501(c)(3) organizations to conduct these activities.  Ballot measure advocacy is considered lobbying activity – and no health center or PCA federal grant funds may be used to support lobbying activities thus federal resources may not be used for ballot measure advocacy. 

Nonprofit Vote
Fact sheet on nonprofits and permissible advocacy activities on ballot measures
Nonprofits and Ballot Measures

Other Useful Websites

Association of Clinicians for the Underserved Voter Resource Center

A nonpartisan website with information on all elected officials and candidates, as well as resources to help with early voting and absentee voting

Community Health Vote

An online resource for CHCs conducting voter registration activities

EAC.gov

A website with information and resources for voters and research and data on voter engagement from the Election Assistance Commission

Rock the Vote

A nonpartisan voter information website providing general information on how to register, polling locations, and candidate information

Vote411

A website run by the League of Women Voters with state-specific information on voter registration and participation by topic

State-Specific Resources

COLORADO

In Colorado, you can register to vote if you:

  • Will be 18 years of age or older at the time of the next election
  • Are a United States citizen
  • Have resided in Colorado 22 days immediately before the election at which you intend to vote
  • Are not serving a sentence of confinement, detention, or parole for a felony conviction

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on registering to vote in Colorado.

You can register to vote online in Colorado through the Secretary of State’s website, GoVoteColorado.com.

Colorado utilizes a mail-in ballot system.  People who register to vote more than eight days before an election can either drop their stamped ballot in any mailbox, or return it to a ballot drop box.  More information about ballot drop locations can be found on your county’s website.

Colorado does allow residents to register to vote through Election Day; however, if you register less than eight days before an election, you must vote in person rather than by mail.  More information on locating your polling place can be found on your county’s website.

MONTANA

To register to vote in Montana, you must:

  • Be 18 years old or older on or before the next election
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Have lived in Montana for at least 30 days

Even if you meet the above eligibility qualifications, you cannot vote if:

  • You’re a convicted felon serving a sentence in a penal institution
  • You’ve been judged in a court of law to be of unsound mind

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on registering to vote in Montana.

To register to vote in Montana, residents may register in person at their county election office or fill out a voter registration application and mail it to the county election administrator or drop it off at a county election office.

Montana requires applicants to provide their Montana driver’s license, ID number, or last four digits of their Social Security Number at the time of registration.

Montana does allow residents to register to vote through the close of polls on Election Day.  Individuals can late-register at the county election office beginning 29 days before Election Day.  Regular voter registration closes at 5 p.m. 30 days before Election Day for most elections.

Montana requires identification to vote.  In order to receive a ballot, voters must present a current photo ID, utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, voter confirmation notice, government check, or other government document that shows their current name and address.

Click here to find out where to vote on Election Day.

NORTH DAKOTA

You can vote in North Dakota if you are:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • At least 18 years old on Election Day
  • A resident of North Dakota
  • A resident in the precinct for 30 days preceding the election
  • Able to provide a driver’s license, non-driver identification card, tribal identification, or long term care certificate

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on voting in North Dakota.

North Dakota does not require advance voter registration, but voters must be able to provide a qualified form of identification in order to cast a ballot.  Click here to learn more about what constitutes acceptable identification.

Click here to find out where to vote on Election Day.

SOUTH DAKOTA

You can register to vote in South Dakota if you:

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on registering in South Dakota.

To register to vote in South Dakota, you can fill out the online voter registration form or print it out and mail it to your county auditor.

South Dakota does not allow voters to register on Election Day.  Registrations must be received by the auditor no less than 15 days before the election in order to cast a ballot.

South Dakota requires identification to vote.  In order to receive a ballot, voters must present a South Dakota driver’s license or nondriver ID card, U.S. government photo ID, U.S. Armed Forces ID, current student photo identification card from a South Dakota high school or South Dakota accredited institution of higher education, or tribal photo ID.

Click here to find out where to vote on Election Day.

If you are running a voter registration drive, click here to read South Dakota’s guidance on registering voters.

UTAH

You are eligible to register to vote in Utah if you:

  • Will be 18 years of age or older at the time of the next election
  • Are a United States citizen
  • Are not serving a sentence of confinement, detention, or parole for a felony conviction

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on registering to vote in Utah.

To register to vote in Utah, you can register online or fill out a paper application and mail it to your county clerk’s office.

Utah does not allow voters to register on Election Day.  Online and in-person registrations must be completed no later than seven days before the election.  Paper voter registration forms must be postmarked no later than 30 days before an election.

Utah requires identification to vote.  In order to receive a ballot, voters must present valid identification.  Click here to find out which documents can satisfy the ID requirement.

Click here to find out where to vote on Election Day.

WYOMING

In order to register to vote in Wyoming, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • 18 years of age on Election Day
  • S. Citizen
  • Resident of Wyoming and the precinct in which you register
  • Withdraw voter registration from any other jurisdiction, if applicable
  • Present a valid Wyoming Driver License if you have one and if not, provide the last four digits of your Social Security Number (If you have neither, indicate this on the Voter Registration Application)
  • Not been convicted of a felony, or if convicted, had civil or voting rights restored
  • Not adjudicated mentally incompetent

Click here to download a Q&A from Community Health Vote on registering to vote in Wyoming.

To register to vote in Wyoming, you must fill out the Wyoming Voter Registration Form and either mail or drop the form off at your county clerk’s office.

Wyoming does allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day.  

Wyoming does not require identification to vote.  First-time voters may be asked for identification before being given a ballot.

Click here to find out where to vote on Election Day.