Get AlterNet's Headlines Newsletter:
Email: 
no thanks
Democracy and Elections

A Short - and Honest - History of Voter Registration Drives

"The GOP is going to question the legitimacy of this election based on this garbage?"
A short history of how voter registration drives got to where they are today.

1. The GOP during the 70's, 80's and 90's employed a number of methods to register voters to insure the people they were registering were indeed Republican.

One method was to go through a neighborhood and register everyone who wasn't registered. Then they would throw out all the voter registration cards of those who had registered as "Democrats" - thereby building up Republican registration.

I am not saying that Democrats were saints. But Democrats did not have to employ this method. Democrats tended to go deep into poor and minority areas such as Watts, or Harlem and could register thousands, even millions, of new voters and only rarely find someone who registered as a Republican. So few that it wasn't worth disenfranchising them by throwing their registration cards in the trash.

With Democrats registering new voters by the millions in inner cities - Republicans had to keep up by mounting some kind of registration drive - they had to go into suburbs and places where voters were split and they had to find a way to come out of their drives with far more Republicans than Democrats to make it worth the effort. Throwing out registration cards of those who registered as Democrats became on way to do this.

BUT LAWS BEGAN TO BE PASSED TO PROHIBIT THIS PRACTICE - INCREASINGLY THESE LAWS REQUIRED THAT ALL REGISTRATION CARDS HAD TO BE TURNED IN. You could not simply turn in the registration cards that you wanted to turn in - you had to turn them all in.

This is exactly why ACORN had to turn in the "fraudulent" voter registrations cards for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

2. In order to raise millions of dollars for these registration drives it became important for them to be non-partisan so that contributors would receive the appropriate tax deduction for their contribution to the effort. This meant that once such a drive went into a neighborhood it was required to register both Democrats and Republicans to maintain its charitable or non-profit tax status. Progressives again did not have to worry about this - they could mount non-partisan voter registration drives inner cities - register millions of new voters and vast majorities of them would be progressive.

Republicans had to go to the suburbs and other areas of America that were split in their political allegiances. So they developed a method called "bird-dogging" where a party volunteer would go door to door in a suburb and ask the unregistered if they sided with the GOP or the Democrats. In the early days of these efforts they would literally leave a "tale" such as a popsicle in the yard for a volunteer of the non-profit to find and they would register people in that household. This is how the GOP stayed within the law of registering everyone in an area - turning in all the cards - and still registered more new Republicans. These methods became more modern and targeted with the advent of computers and databases that allow for better targeting than the old "bird-dog" method.

3. How it was ACORN that was defrauded and not the American people (despite the GOP's cries to the contrary). Progressive organizations began to pay volunteers $1 per new voter registered. This was supposed to encourage these volunteers to stay in the field longer - register more voters and provide a small reward for their effort.

So here is what happened and the GOP knows it. Most of the ACORN workers did their jobs and went out and registered new voters. But some workers defrauded ACORN - simply sitting down at home or somewhere else and filling out cards to make $1 per card - someone could make $100 or $200 per day doing this. ACORN is absolutely correct that it has to turn every one of these cards in - why? Return to #1 above.

Mickey Mouse will not be showing up to vote on election day. A voter registration worker defrauded ACORN by turning in the phony card to make a buck.

All ACORN did was turn Mickey's card in as required by law.

The GOP is going to question the legitimacy of this election based on this garbage?

I have a prediction Barack Obama is going to win by more votes than ACORN registered.

You can problems with the way ACORN does things, or with the way both sides register voters. Or with how we got to where we are.

But get over it - watch the flood on Election Day - as the "Obama effect" takes hold and millions of Americans vote for change as looks likely from this vantage point.
Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean, has worked on over 100 political campaigns for Democrats, including seven presidential races. In addition to his work in politics, Trippi worked with a number of high-tech companies in the 1990's.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
[x]
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Activism
Drugs
Economy
Education
Election 2018
Environment
Food
Media
World