Earlier this month the Nonprofit Quarterly posted an article on “Nonprofits Dedicated to Making it More Difficult for People to Register and Vote.” The author rightly points out that “our nation needs people to vote,” and that’s exactly why Nonprofit VOTE exists.
Because of their relationships with clients and communities–as well as their nonpartisan missions–we think that nonprofits are well-positioned to reach underserved and underrepresented individuals. While our work encourages civic participation and voter engagement, the Nonprofit Quarterly describes another type of nonprofit–one focused on “pushing in exactly the opposite direction.”
We often hear stories of voter fraud, but not nearly enough about the greater problem of vote denial. Each election, millions of eligible voters are unable to vote simply because of a problem with voter registration. This issue can be solved by allowing voters to make any necessary changes at the polls on Election Day. Ten states and the the District of Columbia already allow this, including Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota (which has no registration requirement), Wisconsin, and Wyoming. An even more effective solution would be universal voter registration.
Crying “voter fraud,” some states are pushing for beefed up voter-ID laws. Unfortunately, the type of fraud these laws would address (the impersonation of another voter at the polls) is exceedingly rare. In fact, only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.
However, voter-ID laws often disenfranchise many eligible voters–primarily people of color, young people, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. Among Americans over the age of 65, 18% do not have a photo ID, and fully a quarter of African Americans and 15% of low-income voters also don’t carry ID.
Nobody wants voter fraud. Therefore, stiff penalties are the best deterrent, and have been so effective that evidence of violations is minimal to none. Nonprofits can not only help people register and participate, but can also support efforts to modernize registration and ensure that all eligible Americans are enfranchised. Get started today!