National Voter Registration Day is today, Sept. 25. The Dallas chapter of the nonpartisan HeadCount organization will be out in force at three distinct places, registering voters and raising awareness.
They're strategic in going to places that are already busy on Tuesday nights. From 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., they will be at Truck Yard Dallas. From 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., they’ll be at the Alamo Drafthouse Cedars location (aka, the one on South Side on Lamar) before a screening of Election. And from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., they’ll be at Three Links Deep Ellum.
Local event marketing pro Chris McDonald volunteers his time with HeadCount, with a small group of other volunteers. They’ve recently been at shows at the Majestic Theatre and the Texas Theatre as well as the huge Beyoncé/Jay-Z show at AT&T Stadium.
HeadCount’s aim throughout the country is to make sure people don’t miss the registration’s deadline, voters update their registration information and see if people can vote in an upcoming election. The day, which has been recognized since 2012, is about talking directly to thousands of unsure and unregistered voters.
McDonald has been involved with the organization since October 2017. He had an idea with friends to register voters at concerts before he knew of HeadCount. When he found out about them online, he pitched them an idea for the Dallas market via email. Since they didn’t have someone for the Dallas market and he went to shows on a regular basis already, he became the team leader for the area.
“It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun,” he says.
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Voter turnout has been low for a number of years in Texas. Apathy and non-voting is common, as voters hoping for a change in a red state are overshadowed by those who think nothing needs to be fixed. And it doesn’t help when the governor and lieutenant governor think ideas from the left are dangerous for Texas’ present and future.
“To me, this seems crazy,” McDonald says. “Texas is a big state in the country and I think it should be leading the way. At the HeadCount shows, we’re encountering people that the last thing they’re thinking about is an election coming up or registering to vote. They’re there to see a show and have a good time. So when we approach them about registering to vote, we get a lot of, ‘I’m registered to vote. I’m good to go. You guys are doing great!’ But we also get a lot of people that are hesitant or apprehensive. The one thing I hear the most is, ‘My vote doesn’t count’ or ‘I don’t want to register to vote because it doesn’t make a difference anyways.’”
McDonald and his volunteers try to engage with the nonvoter, no matter the party preference, about the importance in voting and about issues nonvoters care about. Whether it’s education, gay rights or legalizing marijuana, voting on matters does have an impact, even if it might seem small.
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“Politics are messy, heartbreaking, heart-wrenching and tough,” McDonald says. “A lot of times you don’t get what you want, or a candidate you really wanted to win doesn’t win. I know for some people it can be really deflating and heartbreaking. You have to have a stomach for the fight or they just throw their hands in the air and say, ‘Well, it’s hopeless.’ But we’re trying to get people into the habit of voting.”
Whether you want Ted Cruz to remain in office or Beto O’Rourke instead, McDonald believes all voting does count.
“If they can just get in the habit of voting and understanding that sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, it doesn’t mean you need to give up,” McDonald says.
National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 25.