Two hundred twenty-six years ago on September 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to sign the U.S. Constitution, the foundation of the American political system and a model for democracies around the world. I believe that there's no better way to mark this important American milestone, known as Constitution Day, than by making sure each and every one of us, our friends, and our families are actively participating in the democratic process.
In framing the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers underscored the importance of America's voting system, which they believed to be critical to a strong democracy. Thomas Jefferson later wrote, "Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights."
Today, we still have work to do to help realize Jefferson's vision and make the most out of our nation's voting system. While close to 75 percent of Americans who are registered to vote make it to the polls during major election years, nearly 1 in 4 eligible Americans is still not registered to vote. By staying home on Election Day, these voters are missing the opportunity to take part in building stronger communities and to have a say in the issues that matter most to them.
Voter registration is the key to encouraging all Americans to participate in our nation's remarkable political process. So, it's fitting that Constitution Day takes place just one week before another holiday celebrating our great democracy: National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). Next Tuesday, September 24th, more than 700 organizations -- including over 250 League of Women Voters volunteer teams nationwide -- will join forces for a nationwide, nonpartisan effort to register eligible Americans to vote. Here is just a sampling of what will be going on around the country:
- League volunteers in Florida will be registering voters at community college and university campuses and other venues in at least 11 cities,
- The League of Women Voters of Cuyahoga County, Ohio will visit 70 classes at over 20 high schools to register first-time voters, and
- The New York City League of Women Voters will bring together a wide range of partners, including Rock the Vote, Voto Latino, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the City University of New York (CUNY), and more for day-long voter registration party in Manhattan's Bryant Park!
This Election Day, which takes place Tuesday, November 5, 2013, Americans in states across the country will vote on roughly 1,500 ballot initiatives and state and local elections. The leaders we elect make important decisions that will affect everything from jobs, education and healthcare to the health of our environment. The goal of National Voter Registration Day is to make sure no one misses their chance to have a say.
The first three words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution -- "We the People" -- affirm that our government is founded upon the voices of its people. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you believe in, which is why it's critical that each of us registers to vote and goes to the polls -- and that we encourage the people in our lives to do the same.
Voter registration deadlines begin soon in many states, and time is running out. There are three key things you can do to help:
- Visit VOTE411.org, the nation's leading online voter registration tool and election resource, to learn about voter registration deadlines and elections in your state. VOTE411 gives voters all the information they need on what to expect to see at the polls, including your state's voter registration deadlines and facts on voter ID requirements and absentee and early voting options. VOTE411 also allows you to check if your voter registration record is up to date, especially if you've recently moved or changed your name.
- Help encourage new voters to register by sending them our eCard and reminding them to register and then head to the polls on November 5! Talk to the people in your life that you think may not be registered -- perhaps they weren't 18 for the last election, maybe they've recently moved and need to update their registration, or perhaps they've never engaged in the political process before.
- Take a picture of yourself with your voter registration card, an "I'm registered" sign, or a voter registration application and post it on Facebook and Twitter with a link to VOTE411.org. Don't underestimate the power of suggestion -- your actions on social media can influence your friends to take action, so encourage your networks to get registered!
I believe that our Founding Fathers would be proud of an effort like National Voter Registration Day. We hope you will join us in celebrating this day -- and our Constitution -- by registering to vote, encouraging and helping others to register and asking your friends and family members to join you in hitting the polls this election season.