VoteRiders on the Air … Thanks to These Volunteers!

Members of the Radio PSA Team gathered this summer in Massachusetts to celebrate their hard work.
Members of the Radio PSA Team gathered this summer in Massachusetts to celebrate their hard work.

Throughout 2022, a small army of dedicated volunteers helped VoteRiders reach voters from Alaska to Florida through local radio stations with public service announcements about their state’s voter ID laws. For the year, these volunteers got 389 agreements to run PSAs on 228 unique stations across the country. This is their story.

The volunteers, calling themselves the Voting Access Radio PSA Project, first came together before the 2020 election, under the auspices of Elders Stand for Fair Elections, a project of Elders Action Network, a national nonpartisan 501(c)(3). They created radio public service announcements about elections that covered early voting, vote by mail, and same day voter registration. The volunteers focused primarily on getting the PSAs aired on African American, Native American, public, and college radio stations in an effort to reach underserved communities and those who have experienced voter suppression. In all, their PSAs aired on 188 radio stations in 27 states during the last five weeks of the 2020 elections!

In February 2022, the group’s leaders reached out and asked if they could volunteer for VoteRiders during the 2022 midterm elections, repeating their work from the 2020 cycle but with a specific focus on the issue of voter ID. Our answer was an enthusiastic YES! They became the VoteRiders Radio PSA Team, with 26 wonderful volunteers including researchers, PSA voice-over artists, and callers!

During the spring and summer, the volunteers worked alongside VoteRiders to draft PSA scripts in English and Spanish for key states with voter ID laws. PSAs raised awareness of voter ID laws in each state during primary elections, highlighting different ID requirements for in-person and mail-in voting. Once finalized, the scripts were recorded by professional voice artists who donated their services to the Radio PSA team. Then, teams of volunteers began calling and emailing hundreds of radio stations across the country to ask them if they would be willing to air the 30-second PSAs. There were often multiple calls to stations, especially those that were considering running the PSAs.

By early July, the volunteers had called and/or emailed 829 stations in AK, AZ, FL, GA, ID, LA, MI, MT, ND, OK, PA, SD, TX, WI, and WY. Of those, 113 stations agreed to air VoteRiders radio PSAs!

In some cases, stations set up on-air interviews with VoteRiders staff members, such as this one with National Outreach Director Selene Gomez on High Plains Public Radio in Texas.

After a mid-summer break, the volunteers were back at it again in August and through Election Day, reaching out to stations with newly recorded voter ID PSAs tied to deadlines for early voting and right up through the midterm elections on November 8.

And the PSAs were more than bilingual. In October, KYUK in Bethel, Alaska, agreed to air the PSAs in English – but they also translated and recorded them into the Yup’ik language.

“We especially enjoy serving Alaska because we learned in 2020 that though their population is small and spread out, they are grossly overlooked, and the stations are very receptive and appreciative of the PSAs,” said Deborah Cantor, co-leader of the PSA Volunteer Team.

By late October, the volunteers had garnered 368 agreements to run PSAs on 225 stations, an admirable achievement that represents a tremendous commitment of time and talent by the volunteers.

“It is hard to believe that our research team got us started eight months ago, in March, and our calling team put in a total of 27 weeks of calling!” Cantor said.

Volunteer Israel Fridman, a Spanish translator, caller, and native-Spanish speaker, said one aspect of volunteering he enjoyed was “the opportunity to link up with Spanish-speaking folks in so many places. Many of these conversations ended up feeling like real connections. It was a great pleasure to participate in this project.”

But it wasn’t over! When Georgia’s U.S. Senate election went into a runoff, the calling team and voice-over artists agreed to do an extra round of production and calling in Georgia to support voter ID education there for an additional month. In just one week of calling to selected Georgia stations, 21 stations agreed to run the PSAs, delivering important reminders about ID for voting to Peach State voters ahead of Election Day on December 6!

“This has been an enormous lift to our work — delivering crucial, specific, and timely information on voter ID to the states where it’s most important,” said Lauren Kunis, executive director of VoteRiders. “Voter ID laws have changed in many states this year, and it’s been more important than ever to proactively reach out to voters and meet them where they are to get the word out. Local radio is a powerful medium for that and we couldn’t be more lucky and thrilled to have worked together with you all on this effort. We simply cannot thank you enough and are so glad to have you all as part of our extended VoteRiders team in this all-important year!”

The Radio PSA Team is just one of the many ways people who care about democracy can volunteer at VoteRiders. For more information about how to get involved, visit our Volunteer page.