This year, we are celebrating the 10th annual National Voter Registration Day. This day was created to recognize the importance of democracy and our civic role in voting. Celebrated on the fourth Tuesday in September, it’s a reminder to get involved in the election process, check our registration status, and encourage those who are not registered to get registered.
In 2012, National Voter Registration Day officially became a national holiday. It started as a way to expand knowledge, awareness and engagement nationally and encourage folks to use their civic duty. Usually, National Voter Registration Day is celebrated through organizations around the country to bring voter awareness: Community events, voter registration drives, and social media campaigns.
Last week, Community Change Action (CCA) held a virtual relational organizing party where nearly 300 people joined to take part in a texting action to encourage their close friends and family to get ready to vote. Queen Jackson, a relational organizer from Oakland, California who is planning to vote to protect her Social Security helped energize the crowd. Lucy Rodriguez, a Colombian immigrant who joined the party encouraged people to vote to keep health care affordable. Norma Sanders, a retired teacher from North Carolina who currently lives in Alabama, is a voter because she cares deeply about access to safe and affordable housing. And Linda Roberson joined to tell her family and friends to vote because she wants to defeat extremist lawmakers in Texas this November. CCA organizes these and other relational organizing parties weekly in the lead up to elections.
According to the 2021 annual report, National Voter Registration Day has gotten over 4.5 million individuals from all backgrounds to either register for the first time or update their registration status.
Research proves that at least 21 percent of eligible voters are not registered and after the last presidential election, we can tell that this makes a difference. As someone who lives and organizes in Georgia, we see elections won by very narrow margins all the time. In the 2020 presidential election, Biden’s margin of victory was just over 12,000 votes.
When our communities are educated on the voting process and why their voice matters, there is a greater likelihood that they will engage in the process. Too many people do not know what’s on the ballot in their own community. National Voter Registration Day highlights the issues that are happening and what people can expect to see when they go to vote.
For example, Georgia’s Senate Bill 202, better known as the Voter Disenfranchisement Bill, puts our voting rights at risk and organizers are using the holiday to educate the public.
The outstanding gap in registration and ongoing threats of disenfranchisement from extremist Republicans continue to make National Voter Registration Day necessary. Awareness is centered on many different audiences: Like those who have just turned 18, moved to a new address, changed their name, gained citizenship, or are returning citizens. According to the Brennan Center, the lack of knowledge, especially within millenials and minorities, results in failure to register at all or by the deadline. With organizations across the states participating in National Voter Registration Day, it creates an opportunity for the public to gain knowledge on how to register to vote, check registration status, update information, and know when upcoming deadlines and election dates are.
Over the past few years there has also been a push in voting rights for people with felony convictions, and advocates use days like National Voter Registration Day to get important information out regarding issues like this. Organizations like Michigan Liberation, Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Center for Racial and Gender Equity in Wisconsin, and many other grassroots organizations do specific outreach to formerly incarcerated people and their families to help bridge this information gap.
While National Voter Registration Day highlights the importance of civic engagement, organizations who want to have the most impact do public education about the importance of voting all year round. Check your local government website or USA.gov to find out how to make sure you’re registered to vote on time in this year’s Midterms.