Skip to main content

The deadline for voter registration has come and gone in my state. But the memories linger on. Carrying a clipboard stocked with the 19th-century voter registration cards we use in Missouri, and fully equipped with the sense that registering to vote—whether Democrat or Republican—is a beneficial activity,  I’ve been out there talking to people.

[Sidebar: A Republican acquaintance of mine, when told what I’d been up to, and knowing that I’m an Obama supporter, thought he was being clever when he winked and said, “I guess you’ve been doing that in East St. Louis, right?” Around here, that’s code for African-American neighborhoods, and I don’t find racist humor at all amusing.]

So, if I’m looking for lessons learned from my voter registration activities this year, that might be the first one: We most certainly do not live in a post-racist America.

Here are a few more. They’re less galling, more nitty-gritty, and, particularly in one instance, actually inspiring...following the democratically elected squiggle...

 

1.

Despite Americas low voter turnout rate, being a registered voter still has cachet. What makes me think that?  Because I’ve observed that people do not want to admit that they are not registered, and that is why, when I walk around with a voter registration clipboard, I’ve learned not to ask, "Are you registered to vote?" Instead, I try to remember to ask them if their voter registration matches their current address, or if they've moved since the last time they voted. [I can usually get a laugh if I add to that list, “Or have you entered the witness protection program?”

2.

Once you have moved, it can be hard to remember your previous address. Often, when a person is filling out a change of address for voter registration, he/she has to think hard about the old address. Lesson learned:  We Americans don’t just move. We move on.

3.

People who are ineligible to vote are very well informed about their status.  Non-citizens.  Too young (but often looking, to these aging eyes, much older).  People with a felony conviction. In that instance, the legal system is, apparently doing an excellent job of informing people that they can't vote .In my state, people with felonies can re-register when they are "off paper," meaning when they have completed parole. On that point, they seem not as well informed.  (Suggestion: On that auspicious day when you get off papers, parole officers—or  somebody—should  welcome people back into democracy, inform them of their restored civil rights, and perhaps even hand them a voter registration card.)

4.

Too many people, even when offered the chance to register right then and there, decline, for reasons that work directly against their own self interest. I've heard a lot of these reasons, and i am certain that others manning the front lines of voter reg can cite many more:"My vote doesn't count." Right. Tell that to Missouri State Representative Stacey Newman, who won her primary election by precisely one vote."The winner is destined to win, and nothing we do can change that."And here's my favorite from my most recent go-round:  "I take my voting advice from Homer Simpson. Homer says, "I  feel like a real American when i don't vote." (Homer has a point. A satirical point. Not a serious point, sir.)

5.

And, if you think it is hard to persuade an undecided voter, try convincing an apathetic or uninformed eligible citizen simply to register.  One young man told me that he doesn't vote because it doesn't matter. (I asked, by the way, and his non-voting was not based on religious beliefs.)  Pressing him a bit I noted that he was just coming from a doctor’s appointment at a federally funded clinic, and I was wondering how that was working for him. "It's good," he said. "I really need my Medicaid." "Hmm. maybe you should vote," I replied. "If you want Medicaid, you need to vote for people who want to keep it and give it government money." "Nah," came the answer. "I just don't vote."

The best and most effective argument for registering to vote that I heard this year came from another volunteer. Trying to persuade a man who was very reluctant to register, she told him her story:  "I grew up in South Carolina, where my parents couldn't vote, had to sit in the back of the bus and drink from the ‘Coloreds Only’ fountain," she said.  "Then, in 1965, with the stroke of a pen, we got the Voting Rights Act, and everything changed. And I want you to realize that, with another stroke of another pen, that could all go away again. And that's why you need to register and then vote."The young man said he'd think about it, but he walked away. And then, one hour later, he came back and registered to vote for the first time in his life.

And that’s why I’m keeping my clipboard.

Originally posted to Lefty on Tue Oct 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM PDT.

Also republished by Show Me Kos and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site