Today, Tuesday, September 27 is National Voter Registration Day and social workers are joining celebrities, volunteers and civic-minded Americans across the country in various efforts to encourage citizens to register and exercise their right to vote.
As the November 8 presidential election approaches, so are deadlines for registration. Most states have deadlines in early to mid-October. Approximately two-thirds of the 218 million voting-eligible Americans are registered to vote. This leaves more than 72 million who are not registered. Unregistered voters tend to be younger, less educated, and less prosperous. These are the very people who need the support and assistance of government to get a leg up in society. Yet, far too many of them fail to lend their voices to the electoral process, thereby forfeiting any power they may have to influence policies.
In an effort to increase voter registration, CRISP, along with Influencing Social Policy (ISP) and the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, launched our Voting Is Social Work campaign several months ago that is designed to assist schools and departments of social work and neighborhood organizations with information and tools needed to inform, register, and get people to go to the polls. This effort—while primed for the November 8 presidential election—will be ongoing to encourage social workers to motivate their clients to be active in the process of electing candidates in federal, state, and local elections. Typically, there is a significant drop-off of interest in voting during non-presidential election years. These elections matter as much or more than the race for the White House because they involve selecting legislators who will make decisions that directly impact the lives of voters.
Earlier this week our Voting Is Social Work coalition launched a YVOTE? video contest targeting millennial-aged eligible voters. Contestants can submit a 30-video of themselves or another millennial explaining why they believe it is compulsory to vote November 8, or why they are choosing not to participate in the electoral process. Millennials are key swing voters in this year’s election. For the first time, millennial-aged voters-who number more than 69 million—will match baby boomers in terms of voting strength. According to a recent NBC poll, Secretary Hillary Clinton is preferred by 18 to 29-year-old voters by a 48 – 23 percent margin. Although this is significant, it excludes 29 percent of these voters. Many say they will back Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Many may choose not to vote. In the 2008 election, 52 percent of these voters went to the polls and helped elect President Barack Obama. However, in 2012, only 45 percent showed up.
Chapters of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in Alabama, Michigan, and other states have been actively engaged in getting people registered in time to participate in the November 8 election. The national body of NASW, has joined forces with Rock the Vote, the online magazine Social Work Helper, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) to conduct a voter registration campaign until the end of September that urges social workers to register at least five people to vote using the Social Work Helper mobile app, online registration forms or mail-in forms. This effort is led in part by Social Work Helper’s founder Deona Hooper, who has been active in various voting-related campaigns in North Carolina and nationally.
Last night’s presidential debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican standard bearer Donald Trump presented a stark contrast in policy choices for the country going forward. Although much of Mr. Trump’s policies remain ambiguous for lack of detail and because of his penchant for routinely changing his mind, his tax policies are clearly discernible. They are designed to double-down on discredited supply-side, trickle-down economics by giving yet another huge tax cut to the very wealthy, allegedly to spur economic growth. It did not work for Ronald Reagan. It did not work for George W. Bush and the results have left Americans deeper in debt and have fostered greater economic inequality. We all must make a choice. The more voices that are heard, the closer we will be to a true democratic consensus.
Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D
Voting Is Social Work was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.