Danny Glover Takes the Stage For Prop. 52

Voter registration isn’t the sexiest issue, so it might seem strange that the fight to get Prop 52, Election Day Voter Registration, passed could attract the attention of celebrities, most of whom prefer to be associated with more glam issues. But actor and activist Danny Glover instantly recognized the importance of voter participation as the bedrock issue behind so many other struggles. It all comes down to voting. If people don’t make it to the polls to get their views represented, most causes are doomed to fail.

EDVR is a straightforward reform that would make it possible for people to register and vote on the same day. In the six states that currently have EDVR -- Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Wyoming and New Hampshire -- up to 90 percent of eligible voters are registered and seven out of every 10 people go to the polls. According to an MIT study on the reform, these states also have the lowest rates of voter fraud.

Glover’s name has long been associated with human rights issues. He is a recipient of the Amnesty International USA Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in the civil rights movement in Namibia, his work as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program and his work to abolish the death penalty.

At a recent gathering for Prop 52 at the home of SF philanthropist Rob McKay, who invested $1 million of his own money to get the initiative on the ballot, Glover showed up and listened intently to McKay and other people talk about the proposition. On the eve of the November elections, we phoned Glover for a brief chat about voting.

How did you get involved in the movement to pass Prop 52?

Glover: I learned about it through the Vanguard Foundation. There’s been a move afoot for some time for a proposition that would allow people same-day registration. The whole issue of same-day voter registration seems like a very logical and pluralistic way of getting people involved in the political process. The idea’s not new to me, the idea’s been passed in several states and it’s functioned well in several states. It’s a logical step in any attempt to expand the reaches of democracy -- people are enormously busy; people move all the time; you want to get young people engaged -- all those are reasonable grounds to say this is the logical step in a process that allows a certain increase in participation, and if we’re talking about democracy, in people having the avenues available to them to participate.

There has been massive voter decline in California, with an all-time low of 24.6 percent of eligible voters making it to the polls in last March’s primary. Do you think that Prop. 52 will reverse California’s poor voting record?

I would imagine its impact is connected to how much we really put the energy into getting the word out that the ways of becoming involved in the voting process have been extended -- that we want everyone to be involved in this process. Proposition 52 certainly provides us with a very strong argument. What better way to expand the opportunity to increase participation?

Why do you think people don’t vote?

In part they feel as if their voice and their opinions don’t matter; they feel powerless, they tune out of the system to a certain degree. And it’s easy to do this, it’s easy to find other things to do. There’s not a great deal of time spent in newspaper articles and in the mass media about the whole idea of voting, the whole idea of public discourse, and voting is simply an extension of public discourse.

At the beginning of this nation, you were allowed to vote based upon your ability to pay taxes, meaning that you were often a property owner. We see throughout the South even after slavery and Deconstruction, African Americans were disenfranchised, weren’t allowed to vote because of the terror that existed, and they were charged unreasonable taxes in order to be a part of the political process.

The idea of voting is a process that seems to be ingrained in any statement of national referendum, any national idea that people must be a legitimate part of this process. But people often take it for granted because they feel that this process is something controlled by money and those that have the most money use their resources to buy their way into the political process. There are many reasons why people feel they don’t want to be involved.

What about in your own family, when you were growing up -- was voting considered important?

My parents were very involved in voting and its importance. They would have campaign posters in their windows, they supported various campaigns, they were very involved in their union, the National Alliance of Postal Employees. So the idea of voting and being a part of the process or having a voice in the process was something that they knew and respected greatly.

Tai Moses is managing editor of AlterNet.

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