Tag Archives: voter registration

Surging Voter Registration in the United Kingdom

New Orleans      Here’s an interesting voter registration story, but it’s not in the United States, but the United Kingdom.  I had been hearing about this phenomenon for weeks whenever I spoke with our organizers in England.  ACORN was working on a specialized program before the coming snap election to register tenants.  Speaking over the last several weeks with Nick Ballard, head organizer of ACORN UK, he reported that one million registered in a week and then this week mentioned almost 250,000 in one day.  It could be a gamechanger.

The numbers are making news around the world, and they are significant.  As reported in The Independent,

“…according to the Electoral Reform Society. Before the final deadline at midnight on 26 November, there have been 3,191,193 applications to register in the period from the day the election was called on 29 October to midnight on Monday.  That’s an average of 114,000 per day.  The figure is 38 per cent higher than the 2,315,893 applications to register in a similar period in the 2017 election, which equated to an average of 68,000 registrations per day.

The sheer numbers alone are not the only reason that the registration surge could make a difference.  It is also “who” is registering that catches your eye.  The Independent notes that

“The Electoral Reform Society said that of the applications made since the election was called in October, so far 2,125,064 applications (67 per cent of the total) were made by people aged 34 or under.  And as the cut-off for registration grows closer, an even greater proportion of young people are registering. On Monday (November 25th), 366,443 people applied to register, with 72 per cent of applications from people aged 34 or under.

No one believes that this tsunami of youth registration is a good sign for the Conservatives or the Brexiteers.

The snap election was called as the Conservatives led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to force Brexit, the exit of Britain from the European Union, to a “hard” departure without an agreement with the Brussels.  Through various efforts both fair and foul, Johnson had tried to fast walk the mess through Parliament, even hornswoggling the Queen at different points, and was finally forced to an election to determine who represents the majority in the country, the Conservatives and their allies or the Labour and theirs.  Much is at stake not only within the EU, but whether Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in the United Kingdom as well.

In this context, young voters are critical, because their opposition to Brexit has been most intense there, while support has been strongest over 65.  In the United States our experience is that first time registrants are more likely to vote than others, so for the Conservatives this is worth worry.

The picture isn’t clear though.  The Election Commission says one-million registrants might be duplicates, because, if anything, the database in the UK is worse than the state by state patchwork quilt we have here.  Furthermore, the majority of cumulative votes could go with Labour, but like the US Electoral College, what matters is the vote in each constituency in Parliament, since that will determine whether Johnson and the Conservatives get their mandate to mayhem and rule or their walking papers.

Two more weeks will tell the story.  Registration is now history.  The vote will be worth watching.

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College Student GOTV Could be Key in Fight against Suppression

New Orleans      The persistent political canard has been that, sure, you can register young people, but most of them are not going to vote.  The Trump turmoil and the urgency of climate change is overturning whatever conventional wisdom that might have been attached to that notion in the past.  Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education found that the turnout of college students in the 2018 midterms hit 40.3% of ten million students, double the rate from 2014.  In these times of course, expect reaction to such action, and that usually means voter suppression, especially with every poll of young people seeming to indicate that they are becoming ever more Democratic, and, oh mercy, feeling ever friendlier to socialism.

New Hampshire has tried to pushback on student voting by requiring a student show both a New Hampshire driver’s license and auto registration, while absorbing the costs of both, according to reporting in the New York Times.  Florida’s Secretary of State, Republican of course, tried outlawing early-voting in 2014, but after federal courts slapped him down, 60,000 voters cast on-campus ballots in 2018.  The sneaky Republican-majority Florida legislature slipped a requirement that ballot locations had to have non-permitted parking access in order to try and prevent on-campus voting in 2020.  North Carolina pulled a wink-and-nod, saying that student IDs would be valid for voting identification, but then made the requirements to get them so extreme that universities in the main were unable to comply and less than half of the more than 180 accredited schools in the state have now even tried to certify their IDs.  In Wisconsin, Republicans require poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs though some schools have removed signatures so that the IDs can be modernized as debit cards and dorm room keys.  Tennessee and Texas are among the worst at allowing students to vote.  Of course, just not allowing sites on-campus, while putting them in nursing homes and senior centers makes the point pretty powerfully as well and that happens just about everywhere.

The Voter Purge Project, a joint effort of the American Voter Project, ACORN International, and Labor Neighbor Research & Training Center has found in its review of voter files and the efforts to purge records a similar bias in the states reviewed, which include Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina among others.   The standard rationale for purges is people dying and moving.  The data shows that the fewest purges are among the elderly cohort, 65 and older, where, frankly, people are dying the most.  According to the Ohio demographer, one million die annually.  The highest level of purges though are the youngest cohorts 18 and above.  Further analysis by the project may find this to be common in all of these states.  Further research will have to determine whether there is a major differential between Republican and Democratic leaning states in handling purges.

The student vote is going to matter in 2020.  The fight for access and against suppression is one that we need to engage immediately.

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