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Vote By Pal is an online tool that connects Americans who can vote but don't want to with Americans who wish they could vote, but can't.
Vote By Pal is an art project by social practice artist
Donna Oblongata.

Here's how it works:

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Fill out the simple form below, specifying whether you're a registered voter or are unable to vote.
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You'll then be connected with a voting "pal." If you're registered to vote, you'll be connected to someone who can't vote. If you can't vote, you'll be connected to someone who can.
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Once you've been connected with your new pal, the person who can't vote can tell the person who can vote who they would vote for if they could.
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The registered voter can then choose to vote the suggestions of their pal. They are of course under no obligation to do so. That would be illegal.
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Have questions???
Check out the FAQs!!!

Created by social practice artist Donna Oblongata, Vote By Pal Launched in 2020, and has come back for 2024, with the understanding that many Americans are now more frustrated/apathetic/hopeless about the prospect of voting than ever before. Simultaneously, many Americans are disenfranchised (due to criminal records, immigration status, etc.) and feel passionately about the potential power of voting. Vote By Pal leverages and highlights the power of solidarity by offering folks who are resistant or apathetic about voting the opportunity to vote on behalf of a disenfranchised "pal" that the project connects them with.

In 2020, Vote By Pal connected multiple sets of pals, and resulted in real votes being cast when they likely wouldn't have otherwise. The Philadelphia Inquirer commissioned an op-ed about the project from Donna Oblongata, which can be read here.

Vote By Pal is not about "maximizing turnout" or getting any one person or party into office.

It's very simple, and not high tech at all.
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Ready to Vote By Pal?

All information you enter is confidential.
Your name, pronouns, and contact information will be shared with your designated pal. That's it.
Preferred pronouns
She/Her
He/Him
They/Them
Other
Which describes you?
I am registered and able to vote.
I am not able to vote.
What state are you in? (You won't necessarily be paired with someone in your state, but there are state-specific elections that you may weigh in on or vote in.)
How would you like your pal to contact you?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is this serious? What's the point?
    Yes, it is serious. However, it is genuinely not about trying to "maximize turnout" or get any specific person or party into power. Rather, Vote By Pal is an earnest attempt at connecting people who are able to exercise their right to vote but aren't personally interested in that, with people who do not have that right. Vote By Pal provides a way of turning something that might feel pointless and even depressing (voting) into something infused with meaning and significance, by virtue of its value to someone else. Vote By Pal is invested in building solidarity and connection between people who have differing access to voting rights, rather than being invested in the electoral process itself. Vote By Pal maintains that representative democracy is a questionable system.
  • Who is this for?
    This project targets two kinds of people: Those who can vote but for whatever reason don't want to, and those who can't vote at all. There are many reasons people can't vote, and any of them are valid reasons to participate in this project: a criminal record that disenfranchises you, immigration status, age, lack of ID in a state with voter ID laws, &c. Way back in 2020, most people who didn't want to vote seemed to fall into one of these categories: they think their vote doesn't matter, they disapprove of the parties or the candidates, they think the whole system is so irredeemable that the most moral thing is to abstain, or they simply do not care enough to go through the rigamarole. It seems pretty clear that the 2024 presidential nominees we've been handed have magnified/amplified/exacerbated the reasons a person might feel any of those ways! Having a voting pal who doesn't have the same access to the ballot box can give people who would otherwise not want to vote a sense of accountability to someone who will also be impacted by the decisions of elected officials, but doesn't have the opportunity to vote for them. If you're on the fence about voting, or just kind of apathetic about it (like, "I know I should, but I don't know if I'll get around to it") you can think of signing up as a way to feel accountable to follow through on voting, and to vote in a way that even if it doesn't feel personally meaningful to you, would feel tremendously meaningful to someone else.
  • But aren't you basically just trying to trick people into voting?
    No. There's a subversive provocation here, for sure. But it's leveled just as much at the people in charge (or the system) as at a person who feels that the most righteous thing they can do re: voting is to abstain.
  • Do you think this will actually change anything? Do you think that voting changes anything?
    I know for a fact that when I put out my single-stream recycling every week, it just goes to a landfill. But I still recycle religiously. Maybe that's stupid, but the alternative feels so nihilistic that I can't bear it. Meanwhile, I still do my best to reduce what even goes into the recycling bin, since that is obviously more effective at reducing waste. The point of that imperfect metaphor is that I think at this point, why not just try a thing? Especially a thing that's kind of funny and that connects two human beings who would otherwise not know each other and that reminds them on some level that we are all connected and our actions affect one another (sorry). Subjecting every individual action to the vague "does it actually work" critique often serves to mostly just express our own individual hopelessness and justify continuing to do nothing. And I think if we keep doing that, rather than creating a dialectic/action-plan, we are pretty fucked. I mean, we may already be irreversibly fucked, but a lot of people felt that way during critical historical moments in the past and then managed to radically un-fuck themselves and their communities! Did they do that through the power of conceptual art projects? Who can say? Obviously, if this project has any effect on the elections, it will be negligible. That's not really the point. Much more than electoral politics, I'm interested in creating connections and conversations, and discovering ways that stalwartness and flexibility can meet each other. I'm interested in the complex places where efficacy is more nuanced than something that can be counted and tallied. I'm interested in creating the circumstances for people to do something they wouldn't otherwise do. Also, big fan of the butterfly effect.
  • How much am I supposed to communicate with my "pal?"
    Totally up to you! You might want to keep it to a brief text exchange where one person simply names the candidate they like. Or, you might want to get to know each other and have a more involved correspondence. The structure, like all human relationships, is fluid and depends on where you're both at.
  • Do you think it's unethical for someone to weigh in on which candidate for senate a person should vote for if they don't live in the same state?
    Nope. The senate makes determinations that affect the whole country and even international policy.
  • I want to vote for a third party candidate.
    That's not a question. Do what you want.
  • Who is responsible for this?
    Me.
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