Voting, GOTV and Creating Voters
I hope to do a series on solutions and tools for solving our various problems leading up to an analysis of everyday revolutionary acts, like sharing. Voting is a natural place to start, especially since so many died and so many more suffered greatly to get "the right to vote". As elections near one begins to see frequent references to the need to GOTV (Get(ting) Out The Vote), which is often interpreted as calling known voters shortly before an election and harassing them about dragging their butts down to the polls and doing their duty. Some do know that the process can involve much more than that and endeavor to provide the full spectrum of voting assistance needed. For many voters, of course, that assistance must begin months or years proior to the election.
This brings us to creating voters. One part of the process is registering people to vote, but it is much, much more than simply saying "fill in this information and sign here" and then delivering the forms to the appropriate officials. That process creates registrations, paper work, but not necessarily voters. Creating voters is more akin to the voter registration drives in the south in the sixties such as Freedom Summer and its predecessors and successors. Much of this essay will talk about creating voters, and providing full service GOTV services, but first I'm going to provide some quick and dirty background. Creating voters will often require selling the idea of voting and maintaining the capability of the prospective voter, and that requires a lot of knowledge and understanding. So for grins, let's look at the "right to vote". It has undergone a lot of change, largely by Constitutional Amendment, so let's have a brief look at those changes.
The 26th Amendment is a great example of the formula used in many voting rights amendments:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
How does that work?
26th - THE presumed pre-existent right to vote shall not be abridged on account of AGE.
25th - THE presumed pre-existent right to vote shall not be abridged on account of failure to pay POLL TAX
19th - THE presumed pre-existent right to vote shall not be abridged on account of SEX (should be read as gender)
15th - THE presumed pre-existent right to vote shall not be abridged on account of RACE, COLOR, or PREVIOUS SERVITUDE
All of those provisions assume the existence of a right to vote and prohibit applying a specific constraint thereto. They also say "THE" right to vote as opposed to "A" or "ANY"; an important distinction, elevating the presumption from hypothetical to real.
The 17th Amendment differs in form and says that the Senate shall be composed of 2 Senators per state, "elected by the people thereof", and that "The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures." This does create a right to vote for US Senators and grants it to such persons as are allowed to vote for the most numerous branch of the State legislature." In essence, the states determine who may vote for senators (subject to Federal restrictions upon the restrictions which they may impose on such voting). The 14th Amendment, however, had already addressed the question of who would be permitted to vote for "the most numerous branch of the State legislature."
The 14th Amendment does a ton of stuff, including excluding "Indians not taxed" and should be read a couple of times. In general, except for Indians and certain criminals, male citizens over 21 years old shall be allowed to vote for "the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof" OR the state shall suffer a proportional reduction in its number of Representatives. So, not an absolute right as written.
The 12th Amendment discusses the election of the President and VP by the electors elected pursuant, currently, to Amendment 14 et. seq.
All of this is by way of clarification and alteration of the statements in Article I that the members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen by the people of the several states and the Senators by the state legislators. Generally, the right to vote is pretty much set by the states, with some restrictions as set out above, the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964, what's left of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, assorted court cases and the like. That is the crux of the matter - generally, the states set the rules, so learn the rules set by your state and prepare to help prospective voters abide by them.
Caveat - I am not competent to cover the long and arduous path taken by Native Americans to obtain such voting rights as they now have: 1) in theory, and 2) in practice. I make no attempt to do so, but, nonetheless, some of this might still be applicable, such as ensuring that prospective voters meet all state requirements as to ID, etc.
OK, on to "GOTV".
Political parties only care about getting "their" voters out to vote. So, you work for a party and you've got this year's registered party voters and you try to get them to mosey down to the polls. You will probably have to help some to get to the polls as well, and/or arrange for free childcare, and things like that. Now, what if your area used to include 5 persons named Mary Jackson, all of whom were caged and purged? Oops. Maybe you should've taken steps every six months or so since the last election to verify that "your voters" are still there, still reigstered, and still possess all of the necessary ID and suchwhat to vote in whatever election comes next. That implies that you should also start checking up on anybody newly added to the list. One Minor Detail: it's no longer a part time last minute phone gig, but a quasi-permanent quarterly activity. While you're at it, you might need to try to save those voters for "your party" by making sure that they know to change the address that they're registered to vote at if they should move and know how to do so. Maybe you should offer to help, or provide a kit. You might also warn them to periodically check to verify that they're still registered and haven't been purged. Maybe even tell them to make sure of all the pertinent details including party affiliation.
You know, this is starting to shade closer to creating voters, but not really. You will, however, probably be well served to have checklists or even brochures for yourself and your team. Maybe you should just give copies to your clients. You could make up a comprehensive brochure of all the rules, documents, addresses and phone numbers of relevant officials and offices, etc. You could then mail these quarterly or so to all of your voters. Of course a lot of political mailers wind up in the round file, so maybe you should hand deliver them. This can also help you sell the big "why you should vote" message.
Now, here's a wild idea. Everybody who is certain that if everybody paid attention and voted, their team and agenda would win, why not make a huge bet on that and just canvass whole neighborhoods and districts passing out your brochures and such. Throw the voter lists away and go preach the "you should vote in every election" gospel door to door handing out a kit of everything a non-voter needs to know in order to become a voter, and advice to voters on how to remain eligible to vote. Hell, you might even register qualified voters in the process. If you're a true believer in electoral politics, the value of the vote, the obligation to vote and possible benefits thereof, and all that, then you should be doing this - a quiet little voter creation revolution.
Voter creation? Did I say that?
If you have that dedicated revolutionary fervor regarding voting, you need to work on voter creation. Registering folks does nothing if they don't bother to vote. You don't want to crete registrations, you want to create voters. You also aren't accomplishing all that much if you only register those who want to vote, but, somehow aren't registered, though that is the bare minimum. You have to ensure that those you register have any needed documents and you have to actually help them get them if they don't. If they're ex-felons, you have to help them jump through whatever hoops they need to jump through. You have to knock down barriers to voting for them until they are fully qualified and then try to ensure that they stay that way. You might evn have to arrange for them to be picked up at work and taken to the polls. And, of course, you have to do that GOTV thing addressed above.
So far, we've still been talking about the easy part. You have to go to the non-voters and sell them on voting. Many believe that they are effectively disenfranchised, and many of those who do are right. You have to have answers for all of their arguments.
"We are such a small &/or poor &/or powerless minority that nobody will work for our interests or even listen to us. Anybody who did would not stand a chance of being elected." "We here are an enclave, we get one rep, but they cannot accomplish anything because nobody else will vote with them." There are many, many more. Combine arguments like that with barriers to voting and even possible hardships such as a need for childcare, transport, monster commutes, etc. and you've got some serious selling to do. While you're at it, you can turn them on to Project vote smart https://votesmart.org/.
Heh, you might just want to go listen to the opening video by Richard Kimball at that site, btw.
So, if you really want to get out the maximum vote, you've got a ton of work to do, and you are way behind the clock. Time to get going. You can start by looking up the voter registration and qualifications and documentation information for your state at https://votesmart.org/elections/voter-registration.
Oh yes, good luck.