Thursday, April 29, 2010

There's an app for that!

Building on the spread of online voter registration, Project Vote is preparing to launch a voter registration application for the iPad, the new tablet computer released by Apple this spring.

Traditional pen-and-clipboard voter registration drives produce reams of paper for both organizations leading the registration effort and election officials charged with adding voters to the rolls, Mike Slater, Project Vote executive director said, driving up costs.

Slater anticipates that the iPad voter registration application, i-Vote, will make voter registration cheaper and more efficient. “We think it will also reduce the likelihood of voter registration fraud,” Slater said. “It’s a potential win-win for both election officials and voter registration organizations.”

The application will “fit behind an iPad like a carbon copy,” Slater said, allowing voter registration organizations to retain the information they are legally allowed to capture in each state so voters can be contacted as an election approaches. Data entry alone cost Project Vote $500,000 in the 2008 election cycle. The iPad voter registration application “will be a huge savings in terms of data entry,” Slater said.

- Quoted from the Pew Center's electionline newsletter

- Image source

Sunday, April 25, 2010

2010 Census mail-back rate likely to top 2000

72% of households have mailed back their census form. It has already matched the 2000 rate with a week left of official counting. Surprising given a heightened mistrust of government and more Americans affected by housing issues and or with English as a second language. The Census credits the success on their partnerships that include government and nonprofit initiatives like NVEN’s Nonprofits Count campaign!

Cities, with mail back rates in the 60s, have many households still uncounted. The canvassing starts May 1st. Check out NVEN’s webinar on the door to door phase Tuesday April 27th 2 pm ET on how nonprofits can help the canvassing phase of the count - co-sponsored with the NALEO Education Fund and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.

Sample cities mail back rates - Dallas 64%, Philadelphia 63%, Los Angeles 67%

Friday, April 23, 2010

Counting Everyone

Check out this great piece by Afton Blanche of the Drum Major Institute on Public Policy. Reaching the Hard-to-Count: The Census and the Undocumented highlights the importance of making sure that everyone gets counted, regardless of immigration status; it also discusses some of the unique challenges to making that happen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DC voting rights bill likely on hiatus for now

According to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the DC voting rights bill has been removed from the legislative calendar. The removal was credited in large part to the bill becoming mired in a battle over a tacked-on weapons amendment, which would drastically lift gun control restrictions in DC, allowing gun owners to carry guns in the District without a permit - measures that many advocates of voting rights for DC cannot support.

The bill would have increased full House membership from 435 to 437, giving District residents a vote while adding a temporary at-large seat for Republican-leaning Utah, which narrowly missed out on getting an extra seat after the 2000 census.

Currently, DC residents have no voting representative in either the House or the Senate.

Below are quotes from supporters of, an organization working to get representation for DC residents.

"It saddens me whenever I read "contact your representative" about a cause or issue I want to support. Every time it stings a little to be reminded I don't have a representative in congress."
— Kathryn

"DC is the heart of American democracy. It's a travesty that American promotes democracy worldwide but refuses to give it to residents of our own capitol. We are entitled to the same rights as all other Americans--including the right to representation. Our nation's leaders need to focus more on the moral importance of giving all Americans the right to vote and less on petty concerns about how we will vote." — Andrew

"I pay federal income tax, but cannot have a say in how my money is spent because my congressional representative does not have a vote. Arggh!" — Kathleen

For more, go to CBS.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maryland to count incarcerated people at their home address

Got this press release yesterday from Peter Wagner of Prisoners of the Census.

Today, Governor Martin O'Malley signed into law a bill ensuring that incarcerated persons will be counted as residents of their home addresses when new state and local legislative districts are drawn in Maryland.

The U.S. Census counts incarcerated people as residents of the prison location. When state and local government bodies use Census counts to draw legislative districts, they unintentionally enhance the weight of a vote cast in districts that contain prisons at the expense of all other districts in the state. Maryland is the first state to pledge to collect the home addresses of incarcerated people and correct the data state-wide.

The new law will help Maryland correct past distortions in representation caused by counting incarcerated persons as residents of prisons.

To read more, click here.

(Photo: EPA)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Virginia Governor to require an essay to restore voting rights

A new plan by VA Governor Robert McDonnell would give those convicted of a felony a "homework assignment" to get their right to vote reinstated.

Felons would have to outline their "contributions to society since their release" in an essay, a highly subjective process that some say "may prevent poor, less-educated or minority residents from being allowed to vote." (Washington Post)

In Virginia, those convicted of a felony automatically lose their right to vote. Virginia is one of only 2 states (Kentucky is the other) that permanently and automatically disenfranchise ex-felons. Governors, however, have the power to re-enfranchise felons who request their voting rights restored. One of the platforms that Governor McDonnell ran on was to expedite this lengthy application process to no more than 90 days.

Currently, over 300,000 Virginia citizens are estimated to be disenfranchised because of a past criminal conviction - over half of which are black (by contrast, the population of Virginia is only 20% black). The current application process to get voting rights restored is lengthy, with a 6-page application with 3 letters of reference for those convicted of a violent crime, and applications can be denied for any reason. Civil rights groups and legislators are protesting the addition of another roadblock for those convicted of a crime in getting back their right to vote.

Read the Advancement Project's report on the history of Virginia's disenfranchisement laws, enacted as a way to bar African-Americans from the polls.

(Getty Images)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Online voter registration

Last week I was at a round-table to talk about various election reform ideas for 2010.

When online voter registration was first brought up, it was put into the "Not Like" column on the white board. I chalked this up to a generational gap. But then, one by one, young and old, more participants went up to the board and put little "checks" next to online voter registration, indicating their agreement that this is not a worthwhile reform to pursue. Some indicated a fear that the Internet was "not safe" for online registration.

Why the hate?

Online registration is easy, popular and has the potential to increase the number of registered voters. A new report from Pew shows how, in Arizona and Washington, implementing online voter registration was far less costly than paper registration, increased accuracy of voter lists by matching with DMV databases and reducing data entry error, made the process far more efficient for election officials and was easy to use.

Moreover, online voter registration has the makings of a nationwide movement, with Kansas and Oregon joining Washington and Arizona in implementing the system since the 2008 election, and with at least 4 more states currently in the planning stages of implementation (Pew). Just this week, Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher unveiled the state's new online voter registration system, which lets residents with a driver's license or DOR-issued state ID register to vote online.

Granted, the reach of this reform is limited. For the most part, only those who already hold driver's licenses or other state IDs are able to participate in online registration, which tends to miss the non-drivers, new residents and more mobile voters. Nevertheless - and speaking as a young voter - if we can feel OK giving our info to online retailers, and Facebook, why can't we support the idea of registering to vote online?
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Friday, April 2, 2010

Census Day 2: Mail Participation Rate at 56%

Over half way but a long way to go. Wisconsin is in the lead with a 69% mail back rate

Check out how what percent of your community has mailed back their forms. Enter your zip code or street address here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Happy Census Day! Here's what's at stake.

1. Congressional apportionment.
After the 2000 Census, Utah missed a 4th seat in Congress by only 857 residents. Its Census questionnaire response rate? 68%.

To the left is a map, based on population estimates as of July 1st, 2009, of which states stand to gain or lose political representation in the House for the 2012 election based on the 2010 Census enumeration going on right now.

For those states in danger of losing one or more seats, maximizing local Census participation rates during April 2010 is crucial to ensuring adequate representation in 2012.

2. Federal funding for our communities

Census counts are responsible for 31 percent of all federal assistance programs, responsible for distributing around $400 billion dollars every year. The bulk of this money goes towards state governments for Medicaid, transportation services, education, employment, and social services, community and regional development and much more.

Yearly funding translates into varying amounts per person, based on where they live and the areas income inequality, Medicaid income limits, and the percent of the population that is rural. However, the average per capita funding based on Census numbers is around $1,200 every year. This means that each person counted in the 2010 Census is essentially earning money for their communities for the next ten years.

Below is a list of the 15 largest per person census-guided funding for metro areas in FY 2008.

Metro Area
Per capita
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY $5,217.08 1
Sacramento--Arden-Arcade--Roseville, CA $3,959.61 2
Baton Rouge, LA $3,276.98 3
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA $3,183.87 4
Austin-Round Rock, TX $2,216.76 5
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA $2,143.74 6
Jackson, MS $2,120.78 7
New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA $2,117.48 8
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH $2,078.75 9
Madison, WI $2,055.46 10
Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA $2,028.27 11
Memphis, TN-MS-AR $1,959.19 12
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT $1,917.27 13
Columbus, OH $1,857.29 14
Springfield, MA $1,852.30 15

Source- Brookings Institution

3. An accurate picture of our communities

Businesses, nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations, research organizations and private citizens all use Census data to understand and convey the portrait of their communities.

Businesses use these data to decide where and how to invest and build locally. Nonprofits and advocate groups petition legislators and government agencies using Census data as evidence of needs, gaps or trends. Research organizations use data to identify and analyze local social and demographic trends.

Finally, all Americans rely on Census data to understand the demographic character of their communities.

So, Happy April 1st, Happy Census Day - and remember to mail it back!!

For more resources on the 2010 Census, visit or Nonprofits Count's online toolkit at