Building Bridges Around Shared Principles of Democracy
Posted by on September 25, 2017 at 1:44 PM
By Brian Miller, Exec. Director, Nonprofit VOTE
Core to the work of Nonprofit VOTE is helping nonprofits around the country – including major brands like United Way, Independent Sector, National Council of Nonprofits, Volunteers of America, YWCA, and others – engage the communities they serve in voting and elections. What drives our work is a belief that democracy works best when all voices are heard, regardless of their views.
So when we were asked to take over management of National Voter Registration Day earlier this year, we saw an opportunity to take that commitment to a new level. National Voter Registration Day was first started in 2012 to address rising concerns that citizens across the country were losing the ability to vote because they had problems with their registration or missed a crucial deadline.
Most states require voters to register or update their registration when they turn 18, move to a new address, change their name, naturalize, or just haven’t voted in a while. In many cases, that registration needs to take place as much as 30 days in advance of the election. Of course, many people don’t think about the election until it’s a few days away, in which case the registration deadline has already passed. But that’s only the beginning of the challenge.
Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware or misinformed about the registration process. 41 percent of Americans are not aware that they have to update their registration when moving within a state or town according to an analysis from Democracy Fund. 20 percent don’t even know they have to update their registration when they move to a new state! While many states have made the registration process easier with online voter registration, only about 1 in 4 residents in such states are even aware they have an online registration option.
Then factor in the sheer number of people involved – 4 million Americans will turn 18 this year, 35 million will move, and 700,000 will naturalize as US citizens. With so many people needing to update their registration and so much confusion about the registration process, it’s no surprise that millions of Americans are unable to vote each year because of a problem with their registration or a missed registration deadline. This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. This is a problem for all Americans.
With that in mind, we’ve worked to bring together an impressive, bi-partisan network of leaders to push National Voter Registration Day and ensure that all eligible voters have an opportunity to have their voice heard this November and every other election. We have both a Republican and Democratic Secretary of State on our Steering Committee, along with the head of the National Association of State Election Directors, corporate partners like Google and Facebook, and many others.
We’ve successfully brought together groups that come from very different perspectives. Among our Premier Partners are the Military Officers Association of America whose members struggle with voting while being stationed halfway around the globe, Alliance for Youth Organizing who works to engage Millennials in the electoral process, and the League of Women Voters who are building on a 100-year-old legacy of voter engagement. Our media partners include such diverse groups as Univision, BET Networks, and CMT, a.k.a. Country Music Television. The list goes on.
In addition to Nonprofit VOTE, I’m glad to say that several other Bridge Alliance members are National Voter Registration Day partners as well, including iCivics, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, Democracy Works, iCitizen, and the Participatory Budgeting Project.
We are proud of the diverse group of partners who make National Voter Registration Day possible! You see, we and our many partners believe that it’s okay to have different opinions and ideas. That diversity of ideas is our strength. As a nation, we should talk about those ideas, debate them, and come to a shared agreement on the best way forward based on the merits of our ideas – not based on who votes and who doesn’t. That’s where we draw the line.
So help us build bridges based on core, shared values of full participation in the democratic process. Join us in celebrating National Voter Registration Day on September 26, 2017. Encourage your supporters and members to update their voter registration at NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org, or promote #NationalVoterRegistrationDay on your social media channels.
National Voter Registration Day is held each year on the fourth Tuesday of September, so we’ll be back again in 2018! For a strong, healthy, and inclusive democracy.