It’s Not News that Dogs Can’t Vote; The Real Story is About People Who Can’t

July 16th, 2012

Statement by Page Gardner, president and founder of the Voter Participation Center:

The mission of the Voter Participation Center (VPC) is to register qualified voters – NOT dogs and cats.  Pets cannot submit voter registration applications and they cannot vote – which seems to be news to some people, given all the attention some small number of pets receiving a voter registration application has received.

The story isn’t that dogs vote – something that cannot happen – it’s about the people who cannot.

We have a real problem in this country – and that is the millions of citizens who are not registered to vote. We are facing a real crisis. Over 35% of all Americans – more than 73 million – are unregistered.   And for every citizen who can be registered and is not and therefore does not vote, our democracy is the weaker for it.

At the Voter Participation Center, we have been extremely successful at helping people register.  We have registered more than a million Americans since 2004 and more than 350,000 since last September.  94% of the people who fill out our applications make it on to the voting rolls – proof the election officials are doing their jobs reviewing the applications, ensuring qualified people (not pets) are registered.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University has studied voter fraud issues for years and have concluded that “by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.” The fact is that a dog receives a voter registration application, a credit card application or a magazine subscription appeal in the mail doesn’t mean fraud is the intent – it simply means there’s a mistake in the mailing list.

To be clear, here is how the process works:  the VPC sends voter registration applications to citizens we understand to be unregistered. We want to make it easier for people to get registered. These are the same forms they can get from their state or the National Mail Voter Registration Form that’s available online. Our mailings make clear the rules and qualifications needed to register to vote. Our mailings give individuals a way to check their registration status.

If someone signs a voter registration application – sent by the VPC or provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles or a town clerk – they are representing that they are citizens and can vote. We believe in the integrity of the individuals filling out the forms, and we have confidence in local elections officials that they do their jobs to register only qualified citizens in accordance with the law.  We share that goal.

The sad fact remains, however, that state efforts to register individuals are lacking. That’s why third-party voter registration organizations like the VPC are so essential.