New Orleans There seems to be a day for almost everything in these days and times, and my inbox was flooded with notices about a new day, at least to me, which is National Voter Registration Day. Heck, why not?!?
It does seem an exercise against the wind. With the right’s drumbeat of false claims about voting systems and elections, it seems their message is “don’t bother, it’s a waste of your time, and doesn’t matter anyway.” Of course, it does matter, but if your rap is that you’re not a loser in the eyes of the vast majority of your fellow citizens, if you can claim it was a rigged game, then you may not want to invite people to the great democratic party we hold every couple of years.
At ACORN we’ve run voter registration programs in the USA and abroad for over 50 of our 52 years of history. We’ve registered millions. We believe in it.
We also know that it’s not a one-step dance, repeated over and over again. The first step may be registering, but the second step is actually voting. We’ve spent as much time and effort over the years on the second step, because the winners are really the ones who can turnout the most of their voters from the list of registrants. The truth has always been that if we could turnout a higher percentage of our people, registration wouldn’t matter as much.
We’ve also learned in more recent years that there’s a third step: keeping voters on the list, once they are registered. That’s the whole point of our partnership in the Voter Purge Project, since 2019.
Back in the days when we were registering millions every cycle up until 2008, we never paid a lot of attention to what the net gain on new registrants might be in a particular geography. We knew it was important. We didn’t ignore it. Once it was over and done, we counted it up and took credit for our part, but it wasn’t our main thing. We were too busy getting people in our neighborhoods on the rolls or re-registering them if they had moved, so that they would still be eligible.
Processing the data on more than thirty states now with the VPP, we pay a lot of attention to the numbers. We salute our partners and allies for their registration efforts. We worry though as we look at the numbers and often see that for the tens of thousands claimed as new registrants, the net gain compared to purges is negative, not positive, or positive by almost a trivial amount. The conclusion that seems to us to be compelling is that the third step, which is critical, is keeping people on the rolls who shouldn’t be dropped, and doing the outreach to get many who are purged back on the list, so they can vote.
We think elections officials should do a better job of keeping people on the lists as they move from one location or jurisdiction to another. We talked to many of them. Their jobs should be active, not passive, if the system is going to work and the maximum number of our citizens can participate in the democratic process. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to convince many that this is part of their mission.
Gulp! That leaves it to all of us then, and that’s a slog for sure, as VPP discovered in 2020 through our texting and re-registration program. On this National Voter Registration Day that is worth real attention. Our hands are full, and we need help. You can lend us hand though. If you think you’re registered, check today and make sure that you’re up to date and have dotted the “I’s” and crossed the “T’s” after your last move around the block, across the state, or to who knows where. That makes our job easier and keeps you in the right line come election time so you don’t get turned away at the booth for a simple mistake.