Registering Voters in a Swing State
Bo Lipari

On May 8, volunteers from CNY joined citizen groups all over the country in a national effort to register one million new voters. Thirty-eight volunteers registered 106 new voters in Pennsylvania, an important swing state. A swing state is one in which political experts cannot predict which party will win.

The national effort was coordinated by America Votes, <www.america votes.org>, a coalition of 29 national organizations working to increase voter registration and participation in electoral politics. The coalition represents a combined membership of more than 20 million people in every state. At the national, state and local levels, grassroots organizations are sharing resources in order to reach out to voters and encourage greater voter participation.

Beside America Votes, the national effort, including America Coming Together (ACT) and MoveOn, started registration drives in all 17 key “battleground” states. MoveOn alone mobilized 7,500 volunteers across the US on May 8 to walk door-to-door and registered thousands of new voters. Plus, they organized more than 1,000 phone banking parties at which over 300,000 phone calls were made in one afternoon. They will work every day until November 2 on this voter mobilization effort.

The effort in our area was organized by the Finger Lakes Election Committee, <www.fingerlakeselection.org>. For many of the volunteers, this was the first time they had ever done voter registration. Everyone agreed that the upcoming election is too important to sit out. Citizens need to step up and participate in efforts to get more people exercising their right to vote.

The day started early. Carpools converged in Binghamton, where we met with volunteers from the Southern Tier. We shared a breakfast provided by a local firefighter’s organization. After breakfast, we split up into smaller groups for voter registration skills training. We covered common voter registration questions, excuses and counter-arguments, and the importance of maintaining a non-partisan approach.

From Binghamton we drove to Scranton, PA, where we met at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union hall to receive voter registration materials and maps to targeted neighborhoods. A Scranton citizens group selected the neighborhoods based on demographic data, voter rolls and its knowledge of the community.

We went door to door individually or in teams of two and three in the neighborhoods, knocking on doors asking people to register to vote. The results were good, and when we were done we had registered 106 new voters.

This kickoff was the first of many voter registration events that will take place between now and Election Day. If you want to participate in this important effort to get our citizens voting, contact me, <bolipari@fingerlakeselection.org> or John Fitzsimmons, <fitz56@a-znet.com>, (315) 255-4362.

Bo is the founder of the Finger Lakes Election Committee, an Ithaca group working on increasing citizen participation in the electoral process.