It is a rule of thumb in American politics that the higher the turnout, the more likely the democrats are to win. This comes from one undisputed fact: There are many more Democrats than Republicans, but many Democrats do not vote. This is not a fresh observation; I myself phone-banked for the MoveOn.org’s Call for Change in 2006, but get-out-the-vote operations are not what we need now. Many states such as Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and even Tennessee have upwards of 20% of potential voters not even registered. These three states have enormous black and Hispanic populations, which account for most of the 20%. Nationwide, these demographic groups vote for Democrats by huge margins. If the Democratic Party could somehow register this 20%, Rock-the-Vote and similar operations would become much more effective, as the pool of potential voters would become larger and more democratic.
I fed the U.S. Election Atlas data into my computer, and got a list of states in which active voter registration is needed. I came up with a list of 10 states to focus on, in no particular order:
1. Arkansas – Democratic governor…82% of Voting Age Population is registered
2. Washington – Democratic governor…76% of Voting Age Population is registered
3. New Mexico – Democratic governor…80% of Voting Age Population is registered
4. Tennessee – Democratic governor 75% of Voting Age Population is registered.
5. Florida – 79% of Voting Age Population is registered
6. Arizona – Democratic governor…65% of Voting Age Population is registered
7. Nevada - 65% of Voting Age Population is registered
8. Oregon – Democratic governor…79% of Voting Age Population is registered
9. Colorado – Democratic governor…71% of Voting Age Population is registered
10. Texas - 69% of Voting Age Population is registered
None of these states are beyond the Democrats' reach; 9/10 of them voted for Clinton at some point. Texas is swinging back into the competitive column, with Chris Bell putting up a tough fight in 2006 and Barbara Radnofsky preparing a strong Senate campaign against unpopular Senator John Cornyn in 2008.
Seven of the ten states have Democratic governors, making statewide registration programs easier, but efforts can still be made in the three other states through federal and state legislation. This legislation could expand and improve the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (Motor Voter) to become as efficient as possible. As the 2008 elections draw closer, it is crucial to enlarge the pool of potential voters, especially in close states. New Mexico has been within 6000 votes in the past two elections. A handful of high school students registering their peers could make the difference of five electoral votes; and this is the best place to start. Every year, millions of high school students come of voting age, but not all register. The ones not to register are likely to be more progressive than the rest. We can use youth groups to educate high school students about the importance of voting and give ourselves an advantage that will last for literally generations. Many do not want to take the time or energy to find out how, thinking it is a long and tedious process. This is not so. Having registered people myself in 2004, all you need to know is your name, address, and Social Security number. The entire process takes no more than 3-5 minutes. We need to bring people everything they need to get involved in the process without the headache of paperwork. The only way to make this work is to start on a grassroots level, showing people how and why to register, one community at a time.
In this coming election the west and southwest will be the prime battleground, and the likely nomination of Arizona Senator John McCain could push the region to the right. If the Democrats are to become a truly national party, the 50 State Strategy should start with square one: Universal registration. Youth groups, such as the Young Democrats of America, can work with young voters, coordinated with state and national party leaders. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." Let’s give everyone the option of participating.