Why National Voter Registration Day Is So Incredibly Important
6 million people didn’t vote in 2008 because they didn’t know how to register.
Global Citizen wants to make sure every eligible person casts a vote this fall. Not registered? We're here to help. Be sure to #ShowUp and vote this fall.
Why does the United States need a day dedicated to the simple act of voter registration? Because despite how much is at stake every two years when voters go to the polls to decide on local, state, and federal elected officials, many Americans don’t vote.
In 2012, just 57.2% of the US’s population came out to cast a vote in the presidential election as President Barack Obama faced off against Mitt Romney, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s statistics.
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That was a sizable decrease from 2008, when 62.3% of people showed up to help elect the country’s first African American head of state. In 2008, even though there were 8 million more eligible voters, overall voter turnout declined.
To try to fix this problem, an organization called National Voter Registration Day is taking action to make sure no one misses a chance to vote again.
On Sept. 27, 2016, hundreds of volunteers, celebrities, and organizations will come together to make sure people get registered to vote and are informed about upcoming election dates.
To find out more about this important effort, Global Citizen chatted with Matt Singer, founder of National Voter Registration Day. He said the group doesn’t think about itself as an organization, but rather as an event celebrated by millions. “It’s like Earth Day, but for democracy!”
How did National Voter Registration Day come to be?
In 2008, 6 million eligible voters didn't cast a ballot because they didn't know how to register or they had missed a deadline. So a bunch of us launched National Voter Registration Day to ensure no one is left behind. The reality is that our nation's patchwork of voting laws can be a challenging barrier to participation. A national day of action is an easy lift for technology and media companies, as well as nonprofit organizations and educational institutions who don't normally run their own voter registration drives.
The National Association of Secretaries of State recognize National Voter Registration Day as occurring on the fourth Tuesday of September annually.
Why is a day like National Voter Registration Day necessary?
Voting is a basic right in this country, but accessing it takes a little paperwork in almost all states. With millions of new voters turning 18, becoming citizens, changing their names, getting interested in elections, or being released from prison annually, there are huge numbers of folks all the time who need basic education on how to come into our political system. Voter registration deadlines and mechanisms vary from state-to-state. They change nearly every year. They're not intuitive.
At the same time, voting and choosing who serves us in government is in many ways the basic idea of America. So we both celebrate our democracy and try to educate a bunch of the public in a single day.
How many people are involved in this effort?
National Voter Registration Day will be celebrated by over 3,800 organizations, businesses, election administrators, musicians, and other artists in 2016. We anticipate over 10,000 volunteers and thousands of paid staff involved in events and activations around the country.
Is this issue more important in any particular parts of the country?
When we say national we mean it. We also celebrate every year. We think that every vote matters in every election — from school board to the White House. So much of our political dialogue gets caught up in battleground states and presidential elections, but the reality is that in almost any community in this country in any given year, there is an important election taking place that affects schools, roads, taxes, parks, and public safety and justice.
Is the effort effective?
In the last few years, National Voter Registration Day events and activations have registered 637,500 folks to vote. We expect to see a big number this year thanks to an unprecedented number of partners.
Voting is a basic democratic right, and it’s important to make sure you’re ready to go to the polls when voting opens in your state. If you’re not registered, you can register here. And if you have friends who aren’t, share the word with them. Learn your state’s laws and get registered — every vote counts.