Voter Participation Center, Founder And President, Reregister discussed on The Electorette Podcast
I'm Jim Taylor skinner. And this is the electorate on this episode. I have a conversation with page Gardner. The founder and president of the voter participation center the Voter Participation Center has helped over four point. Six million voters register and get to the polls and page card was a pioneer and identifying key voting bloc. She was one of the first to recognize unmarried. Women as a key political population one with significant and impactful political power. He's Gardner and I discussed what's called the marriage gap. That's the gap between unmarried women and married women in relation to their registration habits and voting behaviors. We also discussed this in the context of the corona virus outbreak. Given that unmarried women generally have less financial stability when compared to married women so without further. Ado here's my conversation with page partner Gardiner. Welcome to the PODCAST. Thank you very much great to be here so I was looking at your numbers. And since two thousand and three voter participation center you've helped around four and a half million voters registered to vote and get to the polls which is a massive amount of people millions and millions of people. And that's that's really incredibly impressive. But I'm just curious you know two thousand three. It feels like a lifetime ago and it wasn't but it feels like a lifetime ago and I don't think that voter suppression or voter issues for mainstream. Then what encouraged you to get into those costs to become interested in you know registering voters? So it's interesting that you bring that up. We have helped over point. Six million people applied to be registered to vote and hundreds of millions of people. Turn out but just sort of tripping down memory lane in two thousand I looked at the election of Gore versus Bush and noticed the difference between married and unmarried women in terms of how they voted and their share of the electorate and unmarried women. Married women voted very very differently with unmarried women voting for Gore in married women voting for Bush and I wondered about that and the share of the electorate of unmarried women was really really small in terms of their strength in numbers in terms of the voting eligible population. So that leads to lots and lots of research and the key question was was this sort of a just an observation or was there causality in marital status in other words does marital status determine whether or not you register and whether or not you vote. And after years of research and looking at things like articles from Census Bureau scholars to doing our own research it turns out that marital status along with age and race are key determinants of whether or not you register and whether or not you vote so then. The question became if unmarried. Women are unregistered and higher numbers than they should be. How do you reach them? So then what we did at the voter. Participation Center was pioneer mail based voter registration targeting particular demographic all across the country and that was really a revolutionary. We created for the first time the first list of unregistered people in this country. Because as you know no state keeps a list of its unregistered citizens so we had to create a list of unregistered unmarried women. Nail THEM VOTER REGISTRATION APPLICATION. And then make sure that voter registration application got sent to the appropriate elections official. We did that after a number of years. And then it turned out that this process was successful with other underrepresented demographics persons of Color and young people. So that is how our program's evolved to include what we call the rising American electric which is unmarried women persons of Color and young people who are now sixty four percent of the entire voting eligible population in the country today. More than a hundred and fifty million people yet. They're underrepresented in terms of their registration rates. And they do not vote and they are not as large as share in. The electorate would suggest that they could be while. That's incredible actually had no idea that before voter participation that there was no way or no one was tracking unregistered voters. And now I'm curious. How did you do that? How did you track now? Who was not registered? Well after many many years and what we have done is refined a system where we match a voter file from state to a list of commercial data and then we delete the names of people or addresses that do not appear on the voter file and then we go through about twenty five other steps to insure the quality of the data. And after having done that we then mail out a voter registration application form that then. The person fills out and sends back to the appropriate election. Official well actually. I do remember that election and it was very stressful and I remember back then being kind of worried about the state of elections after the whole hanging chads thing and you know what happened Florida but I am curious what your initial findings were about unmarried women because again back then I was not married I was single and you know just starting out in my career but you know I'm married now and I tried to think back of about you know what was my concern. I was voting but I had different interests. So you know. When I was single I still cared about Reproductive Justice Reproductive Health for instance but I cared about it from a different perspective. And you know now I have a family married I still care about reproductive justice but I care about it from you know having a functioning reproductive justice system for my daughter for instance. So it's it's different so or is moving that you found were the differences between what drove unmarried women versus married women. So there are. It's very very interesting because there are a number of factors one unmarried. Women are less rooted in their communities. They're much more mobile and they said they move more frequently. And your ability to vote is tied to a residential address. And so if you move. Oftentimes you have to reregister to be able to vote. So that's one thing so and you know unmarried. Women are a lot more stressed and stretched economically they represent in terms of the proportion higher levels of unemployment particularly now higher levels of poverty and they don't have sort of the support systems that married couples have and so unmarried women. They are economically stretched the make less than married women in terms of sent. You know two dollar compared to a married man or compared on man in terms of the you know the pay Equity Scale. They have less access to health care. There's more food insecurity. There are more mobile. But that's about their lives. There are other things that are keeping unmarried women and other marginalized communities from voting and it's structural in terms of the way we have designed the election administration system in this country. It's difficult think about the registration process. I mean you have to register you have to have residency requirements. You have to have it idea or proof of resident if you move you. Oftentimes you have to reregister. Elections are held on a Tuesday when you may have to be at work and if you take time off for more you may not get paid for that time off their a typical story that I tell a lot after each election we usually do focus groups among people who did not get a chance to about and there was this one heartbreaking story that I will never forget which there was a woman a single mom in the focus group talking about standing in a line that was going hours and hours and hours and she had her child in daycare. And as you know if you're late to pick up your child you get penalized financially every fifteen minutes and so this is what she said in the Group. She could hear it yet. Chink to Chang and you know she was a minimum wage worker a service worker and she could not literally could not afford to stand in line to boat because of the structure of the way we handle voting in this country and so she made the choice of picking up her child from daycare and at some point. You just have to do it. So in any event so that was a story of a failing of our democracy. Say for this woman who wanted to vote and yet had to choose between her right.