“3 Minutes. Click. Done.” Washington Postcards Encourage Eligible Residents to Register


[Image courtesy of columbian]

This week, as jurisdictions across the nation celebrated  National Voter Registration Day, there were appeals for eligible Americans to register to vote. For over 200,000 people in Washington, that message is about to appear in their mailboxes. The Maple Valley Reporter has more:

Washington election officials are sending out postcards this week to about 218,000 state residents who appear eligible to vote, but haven’t registered.

The mailing has a simple message that online registration is easy:  “3 minutes. Click. Done.”

The postcard notes that the recipients aren’t on the voter rolls and that they are invited to register online or by mail by Oct. 5 in order to take part in the General Election. First-time Washington voters may also register in person at their county elections office by Oct. 26.

Ballots and Voters’ Pamphlets will be mailed in mid-October. Washington currently has 3.94 million registered voters. That number is expected to break the 4 million mark early in 2016. Registrations and voter participation always spike in the presidential/gubernatorial election year.

Washington residents are eligible to vote if they are at least 18, a U.S. citizen and not under custody of the Department of Corrections for a Washington felony.

“We hope these postcards will provide just the nudge for people to go online and get registered,” said Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer.

The mailings have become a regular program as part of Washington’s membership in a nationwide data exchange:

The postcard mailings are now in their fourth year. The cost is 23 cents per postcard, including printing and postage. This is the largest number mailed out since the initial mailing of 1 million in 2012. Only new contacts are including in the latest mailing …

The mailing list was generated by information from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a non-profit organization of member states that helps improve the accuracy of voter registration lists and provides information on unregistered potential voters that states can contact.

At a minimum, the data include information from the Department of Licensing and voter records, including name, address, date of birth and last four digits of the Social Security number. Private data, such as DOB and last four digits of Social Security, are anonymized before being transmitted to ERIC. Cross-match with other member states also is done.

ERIC is able to identify voters who have moved within their state or out of state, those who have died, those who have duplicate registrations, and those who are potentially eligible to vote but are not yet registered. The Elections Division also regularly checks for voters who are behind bars for a state felony.

State officials like the program both because it encourages participation but also because it helps keep the lists current and accurate:

Wyman and state Elections Director Lori Augino said the ERIC information is extremely helpful in having a balanced program of voter outreach and keeping the rolls clean.

“We want every eligible person, including our new 18 year olds, to get registered and then to vote,” said Wyman.  “We truly believe that `Your vote is your voice.’

“People will want to take part in the 2015 elections, which emphasize the importance of local races and issues, and the 2016 presidential-year elections should be really exciting. We don’t want any eligible person left out.”

Programs like this are likely to become more common elsewhere, as states use the newest data-matching techniques to identify people who are eligible to vote but have yet to do so. It’s the next frontier in encouraging participation and one which seems to be working (like so many other things) in Washington.

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