May Her Memory Be a Revolution (RGB Vigil at the Supreme Court),” Geoff Livingston

September 23, 2020; CNBC

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would, we hope, be proud to know that her death at the end of last week has sparked a surge in voter registration. A fervent champion of voters’ rights, RBG’s absence from the court puts those rights under immediate threat. Forbes reports there are hundreds of election law cases in process that could end up in the Supreme Court before November 3rd. And that’s not accounting for the melee that is likely to take place following Election Day.

Online registration site reports that registrations on their site were up by 68 percent and mail-in ballot requests saw a 42 percent increase from a week earlier. It did not stop there; yesterday, on National Voter Registration Day, the site processed 74,000 new voter registrations and 41,000 mail-in ballot requests along with a total of 470,000 registration verifications.

Other sites around the nation are seeing similar surges, and we can add those voters to the thousands enrolled in the surges seen during August’s BLM protests. Meanwhile, many of 2020’s registration drives are happening online and under the auspices of a collection of nonprofit and for-profit entities, according to the New York Times.

Facebook announced on Monday that it had already registered 2.5 million voters through their promotions and tools atop Facebook and Instagram feeds. Twitter will send a push alert today to every person with an account in the United States, directing them to a page with voter registration information.

Snapchat added the ability to register to vote inside its app and has registered 400,000 people. OKCupid, an online dating site, is allowing people who have registered to vote to add a “Voter 2020” badge, which the company claims increases the chances of getting a message by 85 percent.

But these promising surges and efforts come in the context of depressed registration rates overall for the year. The Brennan Center for Justice reports that voter registration rates “plummeted” in 2020, declining by an average of 38 percent against 2016.

“Voter registration is not down because of lack of interest in the election,” said Wendy Weiser, the director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “All of our traditional and most common methods of voter registration have been shut down in large part by the coronavirus.”

This means, surge or no surge, there is no time to waste in encouraging community members to vote in this election year where so much hangs in the balance.—Ruth McCambridge