Why Registering People to Vote Matters

It takes a lot of ongoing engagement to keep democracy vibrant and working. Our fifth principle commitment to democracy and our anti-oppression commitment to strengthen the voices of historically marginalized groups provide solid religious grounding for congregational efforts to register people to vote.

Only 64% of voting age citizens in the US voted in the last federal election. However, 89% of registered voters did vote. According to the US Department of the Census Report: Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2004 the key to voter turnout is voter registration. Once people are registered they are on the rolls and are contacted by the campaigns, political parties and non-partisan Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts.

There are still 55-60 million unregistered voters in our country. Youth and young adults account for 21 million of them and African Americans, Latinos and low-income women also constitute a large portion of the unregistered.

There is still time to reach out to these disenfranchised communities and get them registered. Most state voter registration deadlines are in early to mid-October. New Hampshire, Wyoming and Idaho have same day registration. See VoteSmart for your state’s deadline.

The UU Funding Panel has Voter Registration/ Get Out the Vote (GOTV) grants — $500 to $1500 grants for congregations now through October 15, 2008!

According to the same report many people didn’t register because they missed the registration deadlines and/or had a conflict with work and school schedules. It was not because they didn’t care.

So, let’s do all we can to increase participation in the democratic process, especially by helping ensure that the voices of our most oppressed communities are heard in this high stakes election.

In 2004, hundreds of UU congregations registered over 80,000 new voters. Our efforts were most successful when we did this in partnership with community group voter registration projects.

One of our partners, ACORN’s Project Vote, registered over 1.15 million new voters in 2004. This year their goal is to register 1.2 million voters in underrepresented communities — African American, Latino and low-income neighborhoods. Additionally, they plan to reach 2.8 million new and infrequent voters in GOTV campaigns.

  • Project Vote is working in 26 states including Colorado, Ohio and PA. For a listing of states and contact information see their website.

In 2004 our voter work led to some lasting partnerships and raised the profile and relevance of our congregations in our communities. Wear you Standing on the Side of Love T-Shirts while registering people and/or bring congregational banners.

The UUA has excellent resources to assist congregations in their voter registration, mobilization, and education efforts.

See our voting page where you will find Faithful Democracy: UUs and the 2008 Elections and The Real Rules for IRS Guidelines.

Registering people to vote lets people know that they matter to us.
It is an act of faith.

About the Author
Susan Leslie

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