Non-partisan voter registration organizations, while proud of their efforts, are conscious of their limited ability to reach the still-large unregistered population. They say that a critical problem they face in doing their work is a lack of available money. According to Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, a national organization that submitted 1.3 million registration applications, “I don’t see any sorts of funding that would allow a coalition of organizations working together to get…registration to the level that we need. I mean could we really boost registration in Ohio working together? Absolutely. But [all] across the country? No. No one’s in that position.” Caitlin Baggott, the executive director of the Bus Project Foundation, a smaller non-partisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics, and whose work includes registering young voters in Oregon, described “non-profit organizations and community groups [as] scrap[ing] together meager funds to register what truly ends up being a drop in the bucket [among younger] voters each election cycle, while literally millions of Americans are eligible to vote but don’t know how, where, or when to register or vote in an election.” That system, she said, “is fundamentally broken and unsustainable for the health of our democracy.”
More concretely, among the Bus Project Foundation’s target audience in Oregon (those under age 35), Baggott calculated that there are between 400,000 and 500,000 unregistered voters in the state, of which the organization will hope to register 15,000 before the election in November. She estimated that “with our partners and coalitions in the state, we might get 67,000 [registered] which means that we have an impact on about 15 percent of the problem.” While that is an important effort, Baggott said, that is still “not a solution; that’s maintenance work.”
When Remapping Debate asked what it would take to register double that figure — registering 100,000 young voters in the state — Baggott replied quickly: “a million dollars.” Such money, she said, is seldom forthcoming. Generally, “there is no money for it.” Baggott’s experience with the difficulty in raising money is not unique. Project Vote, the large national voter registration organization, commanded a budget of $18 million for voter registration during the 2008 election cycle. For the current election, Project Vote’s director, Michael Slater, said that far less funding was now available, and that the organization expected to spend just $2 million on voter registration: “We are not doing very much field registration this year. I would like to be doing a lot more.”
Full Article: Underfunding of voter registration: a guarantee that 25 percent or more of Americans won’t participate | Remapping Debate.