You Can Vote's non-partisan mission to get all North Carolinians to the polls
You Can Vote is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to cutting through the confusion and misinformation around voting.
Executive Director Kate Fellman founded You Can Vote in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder led to a host of changes in North Carolina voting regulations, covering everything from same-day registration to the need for photo identification
“I just wanted to bring fact-based information to folks, to bring them into the process... And I am so fortunate that we did because the election laws and rules and eligibility has have changed so many times over the past eight years,” Fellman said.
Some of those changes, like photo-ID restrictions, have been litigated in the courts for years, and the sometimes back-and-forth nature of rulings and appeals has confused many voters. [Note: photo ID is not required in the 2022 general election.]
You Can Vote has grown from a small group of civic-minded volunteers to a small army of outreach educators, who now reach nearly 6 million voters.
The organization’s prime goal is telling people how to vote: where to go, when to show up, what to bring, and so on. They also focus on what’s on the ballot, providing info on what local offices like county commissioners, sheriffs, and judges actually do. It’s quite common for voters to misunderstand what jurisdiction and authority an elected official has — and what problems could reasonably be addressed by which offices.
Importantly, Fellman says the organization rigorously avoids any suggestion about who to vote for.
Recently, Fellman’s been working to clear up confusion about recent court decisions that restored the right to vote to felons once they leave physical incarceration.
Related: Three-judge panel hears challenge to North Carolina's felon voting rights law: Carolina Public Press's Jordan Wilkie
Fellman and her volunteers spend a lot of time working with both jails and local Boards of Election to combat misinformation about who can vote. Many people in county jails are awaiting trial or serving time for misdemeanors; they haven’t been convicted, or haven’t been convicted of a felony, and still have the right to vote even though they’re incarcerated.
She said even election officials sometimes have bad information about who can vote when it comes to the criminal justice system.
“We've had folks confused and say, ‘well, those people can't vote. They can't even get mail. They're felons.’ It's like, well, no, not eveyybody in county jail is a felon,” Fellman said.
You Can Vote also spends a lot of time on college campuses, trying to reach the youngest voters possible.
“All studies and major democracies show … if you vote three times in a row, you are a voter for life, voting is a habit,” Fellman said, adding that her team is working on a rebranding she calls ‘four by 24.’
“We want all North Carolina Carolinians to vote four times by the time they turned 24,” she said.
You Can Vote has trained almost 5,000 volunteers but Fellman says they’re always looking for more. You can find more information here.