Women's Vote, Women's Voices Statement On North Carolina
Background is here. Whether you believe their explanation or not, credit activists on the left for bringing the problems to the attention of the press, and, in general, marvel at how quickly the these types of controversies are brought to the attention of everyone.
“Founded in 2004, the non-partisan Women’s Voices, Women Vote (WVWV) pioneered the use of direct marketing techniques (direct mail and automatic phone calls) to register voters. As its name suggests, the organization’s focus is the large group of unregistered voters among the nation’s 53 million unmarried women. It has registered 600,000 voters since 2004.
“In February, March and early April of this year, WVWV registered 26,000 voters in North Carolina, approximately 57% of whom are African American. No organization that would spend resources to register these voters would then turn around and attempt to disenfranchise them in May. We address this issue in two parts: first, what we did in North Carolina, and second, the history and achievements of the organization which add important context for understanding the way direct marketing to register voters is a welcome addition to more traditional approaches.
“OUR WORK IN NORTH CAROLINA
“In February, March and early April, 2008, WVWV and its project, the Voter Participation Center, registered 26,000 voters in North Carolina who are eligible to vote in Tuesday’s primary election. Our phone calls and mailings went not only to African American voters but to all unmarried women—white, African American and Latina—as well as to African American men and married African American and Latina women. WVWV used the same man’s and woman’s voices and the same script for automatic (‘robo’) calls to unregistered voters in North Carolina and every other state in which we operate this year. Our calls are designed to bring attention to our mailing which contains not only directions for registering to vote but also who we are and how to contact us, as well as how to opt out of receiving future mailings.
“Before initiating our programs, WVWV always notifies state election officials. For our April program in North Carolina we also informed broadcast and print media. Our April mailing package highlighted instructions suggested to us by North Carolina’s election officials and others, explaining to recipients who might already have been registered how to opt out of our program. The timing of our mail and phone program, right before a primary, is one of the most productive moments to register voters. Apparently, news coverage of the primary election reminds people that they don’t want to miss subsequent opportunities to vote and makes this one of the most efficient times to register them.
“Some have wrongly concluded that our timing in the hotly contested North Carolina primary was calculated to sow confusion, thereby suppressing African American turnout. One can argue, reasonably, that we should have anticipated this possibility and postponed our mail and phone program, but the notion that after registering 26,000 voters this year in North Carolina for the primary, the majority of whom are African Americans, we would then, the very next month, intentionally attempt to disenfranchise them is, at best, unfounded. Like many other voter registration groups, we continue our voter registration work without a pause up until the registration deadline for the general election. We don’t pause for primaries.
“Because the second round of our voter registration effort in North Carolina this year coincided with the upcoming May primary election, we issued a press release to all media outlets in the state that addressed a possible source of misunderstanding:
‘North Carolinians can complete the application they receive in the mail to conveniently register to vote for the general election on November 4. The application cannot be used to register to vote in the May 6 primary.
‘Residents who are eligible to register for the primary but missed the deadline may still register and vote through the state’s One-Stop Absentee Sites. Qualified residents may register and vote at the country designated One-Stop site from 19 to 3 days before Election Day. More information on North Carolina One-Stop Absentee voting is available on the State Board of Elections website at http://www.sboe.state.nc.us/content.aspx?ID=32.’
“While our mailings fully identified the organization and provided our contact information, regretably our robo calls that preceded them did not, nor did they mention the information about One-Stop Absentee voting sites.
“We understand that efforts to suppress voter turnout have been all too prevalent all over the country in recent years so that voting rights advocates are appropriately vigilant. WVWV will be especially sensitive to these concerns as it proceeds toward its goal of registering over a million voters for the general election in November.
“THE ACHIEVEMENTS AND TECHNICAL INNOVATIONS OF OUR PROGRAM
“Direct marketing in order to register voters was an important innovation because it expanded the reach of voter registration efforts which had, up to 2004, been done primarily at shopping centers and other locations where targeted constituencies congregated. Direct marketing made it possible to contact people wherever they live, thereby dramatically expanding the potential universe of unregistered voters who could be contacted.
“In developing and refining our voter registration techniques, we tested a variety of phone and mail programs, timing and scripts and settled upon the approach we used in North Carolina and all of the other states in which we’ve carried out our efforts. Since 2004 we have registered over 600,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of whom are unmarried women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. WVWV is among the top two or three voter registration organizations in the country measured by actual voters registered.
“After demonstrating the effectiveness of its direct marketing approach with unmarried women in 2004-05, WVWV began experimenting, in 2006, with the registration of African American men and married African American women. We decided in 2007, to do this in every state where our resources ensured that our focus on unmarried women would not be diluted. WVWV created the Voter Participation Center for this purpose and since 2007, has been sending mailings and making automatic phone calls to this expanded group of unregistered voters in every state it has targeted.
“While we deeply regret our error of omission in North Carolina, we are proud of our record that includes tight management and rigorous controlled experimentation with a wide variety of direct marketing approaches to registering voters. We track the results of each mailing and constantly evaluate our work, resulting in one of the most cost-effective voter registration and turnout programs in the country.”