How Important is Voter Registration?

Democrat Pollster Mark Mellman recently wrote an article for The Hill on the topic of voter registration.

As he puts it, "Most campaigns relegate voter-registration efforts to second-class status."

What he fails to mention is that there is often good cause for this status: Campaigns exist in a world of limited resources. Choices must be made regarding the best use of a campaign’s time, talent, and treasure. And common sense dictates focusing these resources toward persuading likely voters to vote for their candidate.

Is it wise for campaigns to invest precious resources on a segment of the voter universe with a proven track record of not voting, when they could spend those same resources on proven likely voters?

In most cases, this is not a wise investment. (The exception to this rule is when your district is so skewed against you that the only conceivable way you can win is to change the numbers).

Note: While voter registration may be a wise and prudent strategy for an organization or political party with a long-term goal of changing America, it may not be wise for a campaign looking to use limited resources to quickly win votes. While political parties and activist organizations exist after Election Day, a political campaign ends on Election Day. As such, their priorities are different.

When it comes to a political campaign, think of the level of difficulty involved in registering new voters, versus merely persuading proven voters:

Convincing a likely voter requires just one step:

1. Get them to vote for you.

Conversely, convincing an unregistered voter requires 3-steps:

1. Register them to vote.
2. Get them to show up on Election Day (or vote absentee)
3. Make sure they vote for you.

…You tell me where you get the most “bang” for your buck.

In any event, according to Mellman, voter registration may be more important for Democrats because their "core constituency is much less likely to be registered." So it may be a mute point for us to discuss…


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