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Election House Parties

Wondering how to prepare for the next election?



What is an Election House Party?

An Election House Party means inviting friends, neighbors, or colleagues to discuss information on candidates or ballot measures prior to voting. House Parties don’t need to cost the host more than a bag of chips to pass around, gatherings can be of any size, and they are a fun way to prepare to vote!

House Parties can be a rare opportunity for people to seek an honest and accurate understanding of what they will be voting on. Discussing what you’ve heard and read with others is often a great way to gain a fuller picture of the issues. Particularly in the case of ballot measures that are complex, drafted poorly, or even intentionally misleading, it is critical for people to know what they are being asked before arriving at the polls or completing an absentee ballot.  

You can do a great service for your friends and family, neighbors or colleagues by creating an opportunity for them to understand the issues for which they will be asked to vote. Perhaps the only thing worse than not voting at all is voting based upon an inaccurate perception of the issues. Voters generally intend to study the issues, but digging through the details is time consuming and arduous. Sharing this process with friends can be more efficient and far more enjoyable.

What Impact Do House Parties Really Have?

A House Party can have a far greater impact on how someone votes than all of the political campaign commercials and flyers he or she sees combined… Why?  Because people really do trust their friends more than paid campaign consultants! Hosting a House Party is a low-cost way to have a real impact – And the more people you reach, the greater your impact will be. 


The last week in October or first week in November will be best because more information on your Ballot will be available by then -- but anything between now and November 8th can work.

Try to give yourself at least two weeks to plan and organize your party.

You might check your intended date with a few of the people you plan to invite to be sure it’s going to work for them before you get too far in your planning…

Where: Inviting people to your home is often a good option, but if you don’t have the space consider co-hosting with a friend who does, or arrange to use space at a church, local library, coffee shop with plenty of seating, etc. 

How Many: After determining how much space you have, think about how many people to invite.  You want enough people to get the benefit of different views, but not so many that folks don’t have a chance to offer them.  That probably means in the range of 4 – 12. 

Whom: Some House Parties are for friends who all know each other, and in other cases people invite people they don’t know but who, for example, live in their neighborhood, have kids at the same school, etc.  Do what you are comfortable with.  One thing to keep in mind as you make your list is that including people with a range of views will be more likely to challenge participants to think about issues in a new light.  If your list is longer than you have space for, consider having more than one party, or encourage others to host additional parties – this is a valuable and important civic service you are providing!

You can do this with a formal invitation, an email, or a phone call, but be sure to confirm whether they are coming!

In addition to deciding upon refreshments for your guests, you should get a copy of the ballot and think about the topics you want to cover while they are present, and in particular whether you want to invite a guest speaker to address key ballot issues. (see page 4)

See the next section on where to find useful ballot information, and email your guests at least a week ahead of time with these (or other) details to make it easy for them to prepare for the discussion.  Also encourage them to share any information they come across with you or the other guests directly.  If you don’t have it already, you might get some scratch paper and pens for people to use during the party.

To avoid any surprises, you might email or call your expected guests a few days before your Party Date to be sure they still plan to attend.

The main thing to keep in mind for the Party itself is to know what topics you want to cover, allocate a certain amount of time to each, and watch the clock.  It’s very easy to lose track of the time when these discussions get going!  Additionally, you might approach the issues you intend to discuss in a systematic manner.   For example, in the case of ballot initiatives you might ask the group the following questions for each measure:

Finally, you might ask people whether they have any questions about voting day, absentee ballots, etc. before they leave. Registration Reminder – if you have changed your address since the last election, you need to reregister to vote.  The deadline to register is 15 days before the election.

If you are a registered voter, your county registrar will mail you a Sample Ballot, including the location of your polling place and an absentee ballot application.  If you do not receive this information, contact your county elections office.

The Election House Parties Project is a collaboration of the Commonwealth Club and the California Voter Foundation, with funding provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

For more information, see this 2005 news announcement.


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This page was first published on October 26, 2005 | Last updated on October 1, 2012
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