When New Mexico introduced online voter registration several years ago, voter registration spiked significantly which raised the question of whether there is a continuing need for New Mexican voter registration agents (VRAs). But it quickly became apparent that Voter Registration Agents need to play a continuing role.
While there may not be many good reasons for not voting, there are some that hinder the ability of people to vote. In particular, poverty often means that a top priority is meeting basic needs and voting seldom beats out rent, food or family as a responsibility.
Here are some circumstances that put potential voters at risk of not voting:
What Some VRAs Are Doing To Help Voters
A recent post-election survey of Voter Registration Agents in New Mexico demonstrated how some changes can reduce the risk of not voting. 37% of survey respondents had gone with someone else to vote in the fall 2018 election. All Seventy-eight respondents said they had urged others to vote and VRAs didn’t just urge relatives to vote. A majority of VRAs also urged friends, neighbors and acquaintances to vote.
Asking others to vote or nudging potential voters, is a form of peer pressure. Creating a culture of voting where voting is understood to be the norm must take place if the electorate is to continue to grow. Efforts continue to refine the understanding of how best to nudge voters, e.g. first-time voters, ill or disabled voters. Many of these eligible voters need to such basics as dates, times and locations for voting.
New Tools From the Secretary of State and the County Clerks Are Catching On
In recent years, the number of online resources which can assist at-risk voters has increased, e.g. checking voter status, obtaining a sample ballot and more. A core of VRAs are using these tools and sharing them with voters in order to make it easier to vote.
In the next election cycle these features can become increasingly standard as useful ways to not only register but to prepare to vote, e.g. getting a sample ballot or absentee ballot request forms, verifying voter information, etc.
Voter Registration Agents have an increasing number of ways they can help voters become a part of the electorate by adopting and sharing reliable sources of information and new tools from the Secretary of State and County Clerks. While it is not clear yet how many are using these resources, it’s clear that an increasing focus on the needs of VRAs will lead to more widespread participation. These changes are not difficult to make and many VRAs can quickly adopt these new ways of assisting voters.
The elections of 2019 and 2020 will provide opportunities to measure how fast the changes are catching on.
In the second part of this post election survey series we’ll look at suggestions from VRAs about what they would like to see develop as additional resources that would help their voter registration efforts.