Voter Registration - Alliance for Justice

Voter Registration


Leslie Barnes, Natalie Roetzel Ossenfort, Tim Mooney


On this episode, we’ll start taking a closer look at one activity that your organization may be interested in engaging in during this midterm election season: voter registration! Since voter registration activities take place in an election context, you’ll want to be thinking about multiple areas of the law when designing and implementing voter registration campaigns and drives. That’s why we’ll spend this episode talking about what you need to consider when it comes to nonprofit tax law, federal election law, and of course… state law. 

Our Lawyers for This Episode:

Leslie Barnes Natalie Ossenfort Tim Mooney

Tax Law  

  • 501(c)(3) Public Charities: Must keep voter registration activities nonpartisan
  • Activities designed to encourage voting by all those eligible  
  • Targeting must be for neutral nonpartisan reason 
  • Offer services to everyone 
  • Be careful when tying issue advocacy to voter registration  

Federal Election Law 

  • FEC regulations prohibit coordination of VR activities with candidates and parties (no candidate contributions by corporations) 
  • Post-Citizens United, independent expenditures as voter registration and partisan targeting are legal for (c)(4)s – not (c)(3)s. 
  • No payments or anything of value (even pizza) to people in exchange for registering to vote 

State Laws 

  • Many states permit use of state and federal voter registration form (National Mail Voter Registration Form) 
  • Texas: Only Volunteer Deputy Registrars can register voters 
  • These individuals must meet certain eligibility requirements 
  • Must be trained by the county in which they conduct VR activities 
  • Rules related to assisting applicants, etc. 
  • Recent trend in some states to make it harder to assist voter registration – Florida passed limits on nonprofits engaging in voter registration, but a federal district court recently blocked the law (NBC News) 


  • Public and private foundations can support (c)(3) grantees that engage in voter registration drives 
  • Rules prohibit private foundations earmarking grants for nonprofits working on voter registration drives in less than 5 states and in a single election cycle 
  • Private Foundation grantees need to meet the detailed requirements of 26 CFR 4945(f) 

Voter Mobilization, Voter Protection, Candidate Engagement – coming up on other episodes