Abby Johnson: Build your voter muscle by registering
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not registering to vote and by not voting.” – apologies to Franklin D. Roosevelt for the italic modification of his wise words.
I’m a “just in time” procrastinator, for this column and a few other deadlines, but when it comes to registering to vote, sooner beats later. Even though the 2020 political action seems months away, the party caucuses, primary and general election – including voting for president – will be here before we know it. Registering now to be ready to participate and vote in 2020 is crucial.
It’s so important that there’s a special official day for it. National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 24. On that day, voter registration drives and activities will occur throughout the country, even in Carson City. The public library is hosting a voter registration event beginning at 10:30 a.m. that day.
Every year millions of Americans find themselves unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, don’t update their registration, or aren’t sure how to register. National Voter Registration Day helps to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote. And the special day is effective: In 2018 over 800,000 voters used National Voter Registration Day to register to vote across all 50 states.
In the 2016 presidential election, 138 million people voted, but that was only about 55 percent of the voting age population. About 25 percent of the voting age population in the United States is not registered to vote. Democracy works better when more people participate, which is why voter registration is a big deal.
For Nevadans, registering to vote now is timely with presidential caucuses coming in February. As a member of the League of Women Voters, I helped register new voters at a caucus location in Carson City in 2016. We were so busy that we ran out of registration forms. It’s better to register now and avoid the lines on caucus day. For convenience, Nevada allows registration online with the Nevada Secretary of State or at DMV when handling licensing or vehicle registration as well as at the County Clerk’s office.
Registering now is especially important for ex-felons whose voting rights were restored by passage of AB341 in the 2019 legislative session. Under AB341, anyone not in prison now has their right to vote automatically restored. The Secretary of State’s Elections website has information and guidance under “Restoration of Voting Rights in Nevada.” The estimate is that 77,000 Nevadans are now eligible to vote, but many may not know that they are now allowed to register to vote.
Registering to vote is the first step toward voting. It’s like a season pass to civic engagement. Participating in the presidential caucuses, the primary and general election in 2020 flexes the voting muscle. It’s a great time to start building voter muscle by registering on National Voter Registration Day.
To paraphrase the poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one precious vote?”
Abby Johnson is a resident of Carson City, and a part-time resident of Baker, Nev. She consults on community development and nuclear waste issues. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her clients. She is on the board of the League of Women Voters of Northern Nevada. The national LWV is a supporting partner of National Voter Registration Day.