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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hope for Dems in Voter Registration Uptick

In her ‘The Notion’ post, “Fight Tea Party Voters with Fresh Voters,” The Nation’s Laura Flanders has some good news for Democrats, who may be getting discouraged by downer opinion polls. Apparently the Justice Department’s decision to finally enforce the National Voter Registration Act is having a significant impact. Flanders explains:

In a handful of swing states where voting rights groups have sued and won in recent years, the result is impressive: hundreds of thousands of low-income people, two-thirds women, registering since 2008.
In Missouri, where John McCain beat Barack Obama by less than 4,000 votes, nearly a quarter-million voter registration applications have been filed by Missourians while applying for state public assistance benefits since August 2008. In Ohio, where George W. Bush beat John Kerry by nearly 119,000 votes in 2004, low-income Ohioans filed 100,000 voter applications in just the first six months of 2010.
Project Vote, Demos, The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the local civil rights groups who sued these states and won (forcing turnarounds at state public assistance agencies) have been waging a lonely fight to implement the National Voter Registration Act. The 1993 law requires a range of state agencies, not just motor vehicles, offer voter registration services.
That fight became a little less lonely in June, when, for the first time, the Justice Department announced it would start enforcing the NVRA’s voter registration mandate. This April, 40 million Americans applied for Food Stamps. If 10 percent of those people registered to vote – a smaller percentage than seen at Missouri public assistance agencies after settling its NVRA suit – the nation’s voter rolls would grow by several million…The numbers from Missouri and Ohio dwarf the size of the largest tea party rallies. Already, right-wingers fear these voters and NVRA compliance, commenting on websites that poor people should not vote for any number of ugly reasons…

Turnout and voter registration are not the same thing. But, if Democrats pay a little more attention to turning out these ‘fresh’ voters, it could insure that we retain control of the House and Senate. As Flanders concludes, “…Instead of obsessing about the tea partiers — give those newest voters some good reason to use that vote!.” Less nail-biting about unfavorable polls and putting more time, sweat and money into our midterm ground game will serve Dems well.

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