Rights for All
How to get candidates on the record

A short guide to help you get the candidates on the record.

Table of Contents

How can I make the most of a conversation with a candidate and get them on the record?

Presidential candidates will spend the next few months traveling across the country, talking to voters to learn about what issues matter most to them and communicate their own policy positions. By attending these events, sharing our stories about why civil rights matter to us, and asking thoughtful, specific questions about candidates’ policy positions, we can ensure that candidates make real commitments to protecting liberty and justice for all.

We know that these conversations have real impact.

  • People taking the time to attend an event to express their opinion on an issue communicates to elected officials that this issue has some weight with the public.
  • Crafting a question in a thoughtful and deliberate way can ensure that the candidate speaks specifically to the aspect of the issue you want to raise and help you break through standard talking points.
  • Posing the question in a public forum, especially when press are present, creates pressure to provide a concrete answer the target might not be forthcoming about.
  • Public statements and commitments that are recorded (even on your own phone!) and posted to social media can be used to hold elected officials accountable in the future, as a standard against which their future actions can be measured.

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What issues should I ask candidates about?

ACLU covers a wide range of issue areas related to civil rights and civil liberties. For this campaign, we’re going to be focusing on four key issue areas that we want candidates for President to feel are important. We’ve included some suggested questions to ask candidates below — but feel free to rephrase these in your own words to make them more personal:

Criminal Justice Reform: How would you end mass incarceration? Read the full guide on smart justice and ending mass incarceration.

Reproductive Justice: How would you ensure affordable access to reproductive healthcare for all who need it? Read the full guide on ending barriers to abortion care.

Voting Rights: How would you ensure that every eligible voter is able to vote in this country? Read the full guide on ending felony disenfranchisement.

Immigrants Rights: How would you ensure there is protection from deportation for undocumented immigrants currently in the US? Read the full guide on supporting immigrant justice.

For more information on ACLU’s positions on these key civil liberties and civil rights issues, check out our issue guide.

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How do I find out where and when candidate events are happening?

We’ll be tracking as many candidate events as we can here, and you can add any events you hear about to the map. A few ways to track candidates are:

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What are some tips for filming candidates using my cell phone camera?


  • Shoot horizontally, not vertically.
  • Don’t zoom in. Get closer. The lens isn’t zooming optically so you’re just enlarging the picture which means the whole image might pixelate.
  • Try to be no more than 5 feet from the person you are recording so that the mic can pick up the audio
  • Make sure you’re not covering any of the phone’s mics with your fingers. Most phones have a rear, front and bottom mic.
  • Use the exposure focus lock to ensure the camera is exposing for and focusing on the subject. Otherwise, the phone tends to keep adjusting and refocusing, which can make the video look jittery.


  • Use AirDrop or plug in your phone to transfer to a computer.
  • Once connected to a computer, you can use iPhoto or Photos to upload and then export the video.
  • From there you can send via Dropbox or upload to YouTube and send us a link at team@peoplepower.org.
  • Please don’t email the video to us. It will automatically compress itself as an email attachment.

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How can I get my neighbors involved?

Interacting with candidates is even more effective if you show up with a team of people, rather than just one or two people – it demonstrates that there is real people power behind the issues you are advocating for.

Recruiting Teammates

  • Host a house party or team meeting to find like-minded activists in your area.
  • Post your event to the People Power map – we’ll help you recruit new people to join you!
  • Attend a local training in your area – check out People Power for upcoming trainings near you.
  • Ask friends, family members, and neighbors to join you!

Pick Your Roles

  • Someone to ask the question
  • Someone to record video, upload it to Dropbox or YouTube and report back to our team
  • Someone to track candidate events and let the team know when there’s a candidate in your area
  • Someone to take notes

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Is this a partisan campaign?

No. The ACLU is a non-partisan organization, and we do not endorse candidates. We believe that all presidential candidates of any party should be committed to protecting and advancing the civil rights and liberties guaranteed in the Constitution, and that voters should be fully informed about the civil liberties’ records of candidates before casting a ballot.

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Engage candidates in person
Engage candidates online