The attention around this year's election is practically muted compared to the constant noise that comes with a presidential election. While we may breathe a sigh of relief not to be bombarded with campaign messages, there is one message that should be emphasized no matter what office is on the ballot: registering to vote.
Voting is the best way for Americans to be active participants in our democracy. Exercising that right is an important part of civic engagement and being an involved member of the community. Whether it's voicing an opinion for a local school issue, city councilmember, or President of the United States, when people use their right to vote, it shapes their community.
But in order to exercise that right, one must navigate a registration process which can be confusing. Each state's process is unique and includes different registration deadlines. Residency requirements and sometimes complicated forms can also deter citizens from exercising their right to register and vote. For first-time voters, like students, the registration process is something entirely new.
Often overlooked but no less important is updating current voter registration. Whether it is an "off-year" or not, voters need to make sure their information is updated by the registration deadline in order to vote in the next election. Whether moving within the same county, to another part of the state or beyond, updating voter registration information is just as important as registering for the first time.
The key to overcoming these challenges is providing prospective voters with information on how to register or update their information and not letting attention wane during these quieter off-year elections. On Tuesday, September 24, over 700 partners across the country will participate in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) to do just that.The goal of this national, non-partisan effort is to register as many eligible voters as possible on a single day. By organizing nontraditional partners and locations, organizations and volunteers will help guide tens of thousands of potential voters through the registration process step by step. Some examples of NVRD events include:
- In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the League of Women Voters will be visiting 70 classrooms in 20 high schools to register first-time voters.
- In Cook County, Illinois, the Clerk's Office has partnered with local colleges to conduct registration drives and will be conducting a registration drive at the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah concert.
- And in New York City, the League of Women voters will join partners like Rock the Vote, Voto Latino, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the City University of New York (CUNY), and more for an all-day voter registration party in Bryant Park.
As a member of the working group for NVRD, Fair Elections Legal Network has provided guides to voter registration drives for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the NVRD Toolkit. Additionally, FELN's Campus Vote Project worked with national organizations such as the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the American Democracy Project, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, NASPA (representing student affairs administrators), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and The Democracy Commitment to send out information to schools to encourage them to participate in this great event.
This annual, one-day event will make an impact registering thousands of voters, but the need to educate voters on what is needed to register and vote must be an ongoing effort. Tomorrow is a good reminder that voter registration never has an "off-year."
You don't have to be a partner to take part in NVRD. Use tomorrow to update your own registration or remind friends and family to check the status of theirs. Spread the word about NVRD and get the people around you involved. Tomorrow social networks will also promote local events so follow NVRD on Facebook and Twitter @CelebrateNVRD, and use the hashtag #CelebrateNVRD to join the conversation.