Service Nation Day of Action Diary: Voter Registration

Can you feel the energy of service humming all around you? It might be the 2,720 + service projects happening across the 50 states today! Find one here!

I’m registering voters in my neighborhood in North Portland with a coalition of organizations including the Bus Project, NAACP, Urban League and AmeriCorps Alums Oregon.

Follow BeTheChangeInc on Twitter for more news as it happens at the Boston Day of Action event.

Register so you can vote on Nov. 4th!

Read Alan Khazei’s opinion piece in the Huffington Post on service.

Read the fabulous Kate Doyle’s Day of Action News Roundup.

What I learned from my volunteer experience: Registering voters is hard! I didn’t go door to door but stayed in the “downtown” areas of my neighborhood and that may have had an impact — I met a woman who registered far more people by going door-to-door. As with any state you have to get your registration in by a certain date, too — see the list of deadlines around the country.

Updating your registration after you move is crucial. In Oregon, for example, everyone votes by mail. (Your ballot won’t get to you if your address isn’t updated.)

Throughout the United States, under-represented on election day are people who are more mobile — like young people and people who rent apartments. The state of Ohio sparked controversy this summer when the media circulated a story that people who had lost their homes because of foreclosure would be ineligible to vote this fall due to change of address.

The Pew Center on the States puts it this way: “Participation data reveal clear patterns about who is most likely to vote and who isn’t. If you are old, white, educated and strongly rooted in your community, you are more likely to vote. If you are young, non-white, less educated and move frequently, you are less likely to vote.”

Another obstacle to 100 percent voter turnout can be requiring identification at the polling station, which apparently disenfranchise specific populations more than others.

Some tips I learned for registering voters include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the registration form for your state
  • Find out the registration deadline for your state
  • Know whether you can register others to vote in your state, and the deadline for turning in the registration forms you gather
  • Know who is eligible to vote in your state (what age?; also what about formerly incarcerated people?)
  • Pick a place with lots of foot traffic (you may have to ask permission)
  • Have a few clip boards and pens on hand
  • Approach groups (the voters among them can help pressure the nonvoters)
  • Stay nonpartisan
  • Ask everyone you see (don’t presume to know who is already registered by they way they dress, or by age), be friendly
  • Start by saying something like I’m registering voters today so they know you don’t need signatures on a petition

Here are some other tips for registering others to vote.

Join The League of Women Voters’ Registration Challenge. (You don’t have to be a woman.)

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AmeriCorps Alums Asks You to Take Three Steps for National Service

As a member of the Service Nation organizing coalition, AmeriCorps Alums is asking its members to take three steps in the coming weeks:

1. Sign the Declaration of Service, and join with one million+ Americans to express your support for service
As we pause for reflection on this September 11th, AmeriCorps Alums asks that you spend a moment to reflect on the value of service, and its importance in your life and to America.  And if you find that it carries value for you, as it does for millions of Americans, AmeriCorps Alums asks that you take less than 60 seconds to join with over a million other Americans in renewing the call to service by signing the Declaration of Service.
2. Participate in the ServiceNation Day of Action on Saturday, September 27, 2008
Thousands of communities around the nation will mobilize on September 27, the Day of Action, to demonstrate the impact that service has – and could have – upon our country and the power of citizens to create large scale change.  Over 2,000 events are planned in all 50 states, and AmeriCorps Alums wants you to get involved in your community.  To register or learn more, click here now.
3. View the ServiceNation Presidential Forum on Service
The ServiceNation Summit (September 11-12) included a presidential candidates’ forum the evening of September 11, where Senators McCain and Obama spoke in depth about their views on the role of citizenship and service in post-9/11 America.  We encourage you to watch the recorded highlights of this event to learn more about the candidates’ plans for national service.  To view, click here now.