Group tries to keep voters going to the dogs
July 5th, 2012
By O. Ricardo Pimentel
When it came in the mail from the Voter Participation Center, red flags flew — skepticism and suspicion being an occupational hazard.
Though I am already registered to vote at my current address, it said that if I no longer lived at a previous address — in Wisconsin — I need to register. The address given to send the completed registration form was “Voter Participation Center, Office of the Secretary of State,” prompting my leap that this was from the Texas secretary of state.
Florida’s ham-handed purging of voter rolls was fresh in the news, so I was thinking someone was trying to clean up Texas’ voter rolls. Not necessarily bad, but I wondered about the criteria on who got queried.
I was way off, a call to the secretary of the state’s office revealed. And a chat with the folks at the Voter Participation Center led me to the conclusion that its effort goes way beyond helpful to absolutely necessary.
The mailing instructed me how to determine if I was registered. Slightly smaller print informed me that the VPC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization unattached to any government. If you fill out the form and send it to the secretary of state, that office will send it to your county election officials to register you.
So, instead of a column on a purge, I’m writing one about a needed surge — in registrations. If you get this form and aren’t registered, read the entire form (unlike me) and please send it in.
The group targets what it calls the “Rising American Electorate.” VPC — formerly named Women’s Voices. Women Vote — defines this group as unmarried women, people of color and 18 to 29 year olds. And it says that 44 percent of the folks fitting this description in Texas are not registered to vote. They are a majority nationally of eligible voters and represent growing parts of the U.S. population.
VPC’s efforts to register these folks — 406,860 mailings in Texas in June — happen to coincide with efforts to stymie the “rising” of particular parts of the electorate.
The Brennan Center for Justice this year released a report that detailed all such efforts in the states. Texas’ Voter ID was there, but this report also cited approved Texas legislation that restricts how people are registered — requiring folks doing the registering in person to be deputized and trained and requiring they be Texas residents and that their pay not be “performance based.”
While these restrictions seem harmless and will be met by groups interested in voter registration, they are intended to throw down speed bumps. The excesses that have occurred are a mere blip of registrations, yet these become the focus and the rule that influence the rule-makers.
Sort of like when a dog gets one of those VPC mailings.
Page Gardner, VPC president, fielded a teleconference call with reporters recently because such a mailing was sent to a dog, Mozart, in Virginia. This occurred because this dog got on a magazine subscription list earlier.
“Mozart won’t be registering and won’t vote,” Gardner said.
Right; the problem is people who aren’t voting. But another problem: People who like it that way. They want to talk about the dog — also a nice metaphor for those rare instances of voter fraud — rather than the 20,000 new folks that VPC says are being registered per day and the number of people without photo ID in Texas who will be affected by voter ID.
That’s called a disconnect. And it’s no accident.
Read more at My San Antonio.