Are you registered to vote?
This year promises to be a landmark year for American politics. The Presidential campaign, paired with the current impeachment proceedings and an upsurge in female and minority candidates for seats in Congress, makes this one of the most anticipated campaign seasons in recent history. In some states, however, it is already too late to register to vote in the 2020 primary elections.
It’s no secret that America’s voting system is flawed. Voter registration systems and deadlines are often difficult to understand–or to find in the first place. Most states offer voter registration systems by mail, in person, or online, and a small minority offer registration on Election Day with the right materials.
To help ease the process, Business Insider collected a list of deadlines for in-person, online, and mail-in registration to vote in the primaries, seen below. As you’ll notice, many of these dates are fast approaching–or have already passed–and media attention to this fact has been surprisingly lax.
Why is this a problem?
Mainly, it’s because voter registration directly impacts voter turn-out at the polls. Part of the reason people don’t know to register for the primary elections is that popular media tends to focus on the November election season instead of the primaries. To that end, there are less reminders about voter registration during January and February as there are during the summer and fall.
It’s simple: If you’re not registered to vote, you just can’t vote. And while the primary elections might not seem as important as the “real” elections held in November, the impact of lax voter registration can be devastating on female and minority candidates.
Why are the primary elections so important?
Although political parties are not mentioned in the US Constitution, party politics play a major role in the way we elect our officials today.
The current primary election system evolved as a way to give Americans more voting power over the presidential nomination process. In the early years of our nation’s founding, candidates were nominated by party officials rather than the American people. Today, some states (but not all) hold primaries and caucuses to give candidates a chance to build their platforms and grow a support base. These primaries and caucuses do not determine who is nominated for election, but rather, how many delegates each party will receive from their state. These delegates then go on to nominate the Presidential candidates.
To that end, primary elections are not the throwaway elections many news outlets make them out to be. During the primaries, it’s critical to give all potential Presidential candidates a platform to make their voices heard, share their thoughts on critical issues, and allow the general public to form an opinion that will better inform their voting decisions in November.
How does this affect feminist philanthropy?
Simply put, elections are expensive. Many of 2020’s current candidates (like Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Tom Steyer) can rely on their personal wealth to fund their campaigns. Those who don’t–or can’t–appeal to voters and fundraisers for donations.
For candidates without their own financial strength behind them , campaigning through successful primaries, into the summer and fall, and into the general election in November, is nothing short of impossible. Just look at Kamala Harris, whose promising campaign collapsed under the weight of financial pressure.
Feminist philanthropy has an opportunity in politics, one that is absolutely critical to advancing social change. By supporting forward-thinking candidates, high-value individuals can fight against one of the most widespread issues in American politics: that money, not votes, tends to drive the success of political campaigns.
How can I help?
- Make sure you’re registered to vote. (And then vote.)
- Assist others in registering to vote, either by drumming up local support and coverage of your state’s registration deadlines, or by donating to organizations that close the gap between underserved voters and the poll booths.
As the race toward November continues, candidates thin out, and platforms grow, there is more of an opportunity than ever for feminist funders to put their money behind candidates that truly uphold ideals and campaigns that benefit women, children, and minorities. Let’s make sure these candidates make it on to the ballot.
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