Gazette opinion: Volunteers continue voter registration tradition

2012-09-21T00:10:00Z Gazette opinion: Volunteers continue voter registration tradition The Billings Gazette
September 21, 2012 12:10 am

So far, 657,201 people have registered to vote in Montana, according to the Secretary of State Office. The rest of the population will have no say in the Nov. 6 general election — unless they register soon.

The League of Women Voters of Billings wants to help more eligible residents exercise their precious right to vote. League volunteers will participate Tuesday in National Voter Registration Day.

Dozens of volunteers will be out looking for busy citizens where they dine, get health care, go to school and shop. On Tuesday, league volunteers are scheduled to be at Rocky Mountain College, Montana State University Billings, RiverStone Health and First National Pawn in Billings. In Crow Agency, volunteers will register voters at a church, college and senior citizens center. They will register voters at the college cafeteria in Lame Deer.

Nationally, 700 groups will be working Tuesday in every state to register voters, according to Theresa Schneder, president of the Billings league.

“In 2008, 6 million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register,” Schneder said. “In 2012, we want to make sure no one is left out.”

The Montana deadline for voter registration is Oct. 9 for voters to have the options of requesting a mail ballot or going to the polls on Election Day. Voters may still register on Oct.10, but they must register and vote at their county elections office. Montanans also may register and vote on Election Day, but the process will take longer than the time it takes for voters who are already registered to vote.

Schneder has seen firsthand in her home community of Pompeys Pillar that many eligible residents aren’t properly registered. In a few days, she registered 12 people who had not re-registered since moving to Pompeys Pillar and four who had never been registered.

This year, the Billings league board decided to do registration drives. They’ve already registered voters in Roundup, Broadview and Busby.

“We wanted to focus on our basic work, which is voter registration and voter rights, voter education and good government,” Schneder said.

The League of Women Voters grew out of the women’s suffrage movement. The league was created in 1920, just before ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader of the suffrage movement, said the League of Women Voters “is not to lure women from partisanship but to combine them in an effort for legislation which will protect coming movements, which we cannot even foretell, from suffering the untoward conditions which have hindered for so long the coming of equal suffrage.”

Much has changed in 92 years, but still many citizens of our democratic nation do not exercise their voting rights.

Now is the time fill out that short registration card. We commend the League of Women Voters for helping Montanans take the first crucial step toward participating in the Nov. 6 elections for president, Congress, state and local offices.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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