Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Nelson recently wrote that “more than 100,000 Minnesotans have signed up to vote in this year’s elections, half of them with the help of ACORN [Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now].” Recent controversies over ACORN voter registration efforts highlight differences in approach between Republicans and Democrats on voter registration and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) work.
According to Minnesota Republican Party Communication Director, Gina Countryman, the Minnesota GOP does not use ACORN, or other third-party organizations, in order to register new voters. “We rely on field-staff and volunteers,” said Countryman.
Dr. Nancy Zingale, Professor Emeritus of Political Science from the University of St. Thomas, speculates that the GOP does not use ACORN because it is a very liberal outfit, targeting people who wouldn’t likely vote Republican.
“I think that the GOP moves toward de-mobilization, not mobilization, of the voting public,” said Zingale.
Mike Downing, Vice-Chair of the Republican BPOU for MN House District 53B, disagrees and thinks that saying Republicans are de-mobilizing the voting public sounds like a conspiracy theory. (The BPOU is the Republican Basic Political Organization Unit in Minnesota. “If you want to get involved in party politics, the place to start is at your local BPOU (Basic Political Organizational Unit). In Minnesota, depending upon where you live, your BPOU might be a legislative house district, a senate district, or even a county,” explains the Sixth Congressional District GOP web site.)
“The Republican Party fundamentally believes in and focuses on individual responsibility,” says Downing. “Therefore, we encourage all prospective voters to register to vote as well as exercise their right to vote. This is stark contrast to the Democratic Party’s approach that believes voters must need help to register and to vote since they will not do so otherwise.”
The Republican GOTV effort, can involve simply encouraging voter participation of friends and co-workers to volunteering to drive people to polling places who have transportation issues. For the Minnesota GOP, GOTV seems to consist primarily of phone calls, door knocking and literature dropping.
It “is definitely a local House District 53B effort as well as a state effort. We utilize phone banks and phone lists provided by the Minnesota GOP. We focus on local elections that affect 53B then statewide elections and then national elections,” said Downing. District 53B is a suburban district that includes White Bear Lake and North Oaks.
Republican Representative Carol McFarlane from District 53B wouldn’t mind seeing more community building events like the Republican Family (and Friends) Fun Night that she helped organize last month.
“We have to build relationships with people, it is foundational for getting people engaged enough to want to vote, ” said McFarlane.
In less than two weeks, Americans will be exercising their right, and privilege, to vote in the 2008 general election. In order to vote, a person must be registered, and since the advance registration deadline has passed, the only option left in Minnesota is to register to vote at polling places on Election Day. (For information about what is needed to register on Election Day, see side-bar.)
Mary Schoen lives in White Bear Lake with her husband and her muse, Rudy, a Rat Terrier with Holstein markings. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).