Today, in case you haven't been on Twitter, is National Voter Registration Day, in which volunteers around the country hit the streets and Internet to get people signed up to vote in November. It's an admirable effort, particularly seeing as, per organizers, more than 6 million people didn't vote last year because they missed a registration deadline or didn't know how to register.
Seems innocent enough. But look at the website and you can't help but notice how the o-shaped National Voter Registration Day logo is suspiciously similar to the O-shaped Obama logo, and the whole web site has an Obama vibe to it. The list of participating organizations is also decidedly left-leaning.
Dallas County Republican Chair Wade Emmert doesn't have a problem with any of that. It's each party's prerogative to get as many votes as possible, and, all in all, registering voters is a good thing. The line blurs, however, when a governmental body gets involved, as Dallas County Elections did today, when it sent volunteers to 60 public high schools to sign up students to vote.
"When you pick out one group and you actively recruit those voters to the exclusion of other voters, I just think that's wrong," Emmert said.
The voters the county is registering in this case are young and, just glancing at the list of high schools, mostly black or Hispanic. In other words: likely Democrats.
This was a hot topic this morning at this morning's Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting, with Republican Commissioner Mike Cantrell accusing elections administrator Toni Pippins-Poole of using her office for the benefit of partisan groups, according to the Morning News. Pippins-Poole said she was approached by the League of Women Voters and agreed to help. County Judge Clay Jenkins dismissed the notion that the drive was in any way partisan.
Still, the county could have at least reached out to the Republican Party, which Emmert said never happened. If Pippins-Pool had, he would have suggested offering registration drives at charter and private schools, among other things, to make the voter registration drive a truly bipartisan affair.
"The bottom line is, I feel like the elections department needs to stay out of the political side of it," he said.
Update at 5:07 p.m.: I just spoke with Pippins-Poole who reiterated what she said at the Commissioners Court meeting, adding that the voter registration drives weren't targeted at students but were intended to be "more of a community event," open to everyone. They were held at schools because that's where the polling places are.
As for the charge partisanship, Pippins-Poole said she couldn't understand it. The League of Women Voters is a well-respected, non-partisan group that has partnered with the county in the past.
"We didn't want to make it political," she said. "We were trying not to make it partisan or get the parties involved or the candidates involved."
That said, she concedes Emmert's point that the drive shouldn't have been limited to public schools. The reason that happened was largely a matter of time. The county had only a couple of weeks to organize and already had contacts with the public schools.
"We don't want to leave anyone out."
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