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  • Writer's pictureJack Metz

Rocky Roll

Americans have been clashing over voting laws since colonial times. Each passing generation has viewed eligibility and access differently... but none of them seriously toyed with the idea of letting private entities register members of the public until the MTV era.

Fast forward to today. Nongovernmental voter turnout organizations have injected themselves into the very bedrock of the democratic process. As a result, an artificial layer now exists between county registrars and a huge chunk of the populace. The question is: are these third parties exploiting the system in order to meddle in our elections? 

I decided to investigate by going behind the scenes at one of these outfits.

Wreck The Vote?

For decades, I, like many people, was under the naive assumption that the "get out the vote" (GOTV) movement revolved around passion for democracy. This fantasy was destroyed by a sketchy Instagram reel that caused me to wonder if something nefarious was afoot. Naturally, I went to the advertised home page and began digging.

[Note: I am unable to disclose the name of this supposedly nonpartisan entity for legal reasons. Be that as it may, if the proper authorities want to pursue election tampering charges based on the contents of this column, I possess the evidence to help them make their case.]

I noticed that this GOTV firm has partnered with countless celebrities and trendy businesses to register over one million voters. Except for one link to an ultra-progressive retail chain (that for some reason is featured prominently in the nonprofit's principal photo waiver form), everything seemed relatively routine on the surface. Then I perused their calendar...

Wedged in between a bunch of events targeted at Generation Alpha were sporadic appearances at upcoming US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremonies. This raised a variety of enormous red flags. The three biggest:

  1. Why does the federal government allow outside organizations inside secure buildings for this purpose, thereby legitimizing them in the process?

  2. What percent of the foreign-born individuals in attendance feel pressured to comply with the GOTV representatives... or even know they are dealing with nongovernmental agents?

  3. Why do state registrars permit this convoluted version of voter application?

I figured the best way to shed light on the situation was to volunteer at a naturalization ceremony. So, I began requesting to work this type of GOTV affair until they finally assigned me to one.

Electoral Survey

As I drove to my shift in Virginia that fateful morning, I kept reminding myself to remain neutral. The facts, not my hunches, needed to dictate the narrative. In order to manifest that goal, I pointedly promised my wife that I'd squash the story if things were essentially on the up and up.

Sadly, they weren't.

For starters, I heard one team lead ask a superior what happens if a couple of forms aren't fully completed. The senior manager implied that documents sometimes magically fill themselves in once inside the GOTV headquarters. That same conversation also opened my eyes to the troublesome journey the applications we were collecting would soon embark on, going from Virginia to another part of the country and back to Virginia who knows when. I was told it was necessary so forms could be batched by county. Whether that's really the primary motivation behind out-of-state mailings is unclear. What is clear, according to that senior member, is that GOTV grant money is tied to the quantity of registrations and other correspondence they receive.

[I wish I had recorded proof of these interactions but feared the penalties for capturing audio in a federal building would supersede Virginia's one-party consent laws.]

During the few short hours I volunteered, approximately 200 people (who were in their first ten minutes of American citizenship) handed over voter registration applications at the tables we had set up. They constituted the vast majority of ceremony participants present that day. On the flip side, scarcely a handful of new citizens chose to send the paperwork to Richmond on their own dime. Based on what I saw and heard, bypassing us was the wiser move.

I must admit I was mildly shocked I did not witness any partisan shenanigans while on site. Still, my overall experience cemented the notion that GOTVs are actually worse than I had imagined.

Debate Season

Even if one were to dismiss the entirety of my testimony, there are still a slew of unanswered alarm bells associated with GOTVs. Like... why do so many of them exist when most states offer online voter registration to anyone not already covered by the Motor Voter Law that has been on the books for 25+ years?

Speaking of driver's licenses, why do GOTV gospelers love to belabor the plight of citizens who lack identification when their own literature "advise(s)" bringing proof of identification? Worse yet, how often does their use of that sloppy term cause voters to get turned away? For instance, in federal elections, first time voters must verify ID if a Virginia voter registration application was submitted by mail. It's mandatory, not a suggestion.

Relatedly, how often are GOTVs guilty of careless typos that will confuse potential voters or jeopardize their eligibility? The website for one nonprofit I researched incorrectly informs the public that Virginians can vote in the primaries if they will be 17 by the next election. In other words, while it should say people who will be 18 by November can vote in the spring, the way the GOTV conveys that information wrongly indicates that 16-year-olds have a right to vote.

Also, why do some GOTVs instruct registrants to wait up to seven weeks for confirmation when certain commonwealths require paperwork to appear at the appropriate governmental office within ten days?

Finally, how can we be sure GOTV staff and volunteers aren't covertly pushing partisanship? While I didn't see it during my volunteer stint, I did uncover an anecdotal example of a voter turnout director influencing a college student's party affiliation decision while that executive was being shadowed by a major magazine. Yes, that's just one data point; but it looms larger if you consider what industry peers are capable of when they don't have reporters attached to their hips.

Tabulating The Results

Please recognize that these questionable practices aren't necessarily limited to a single shoddy operation. Much of the industry leans heavily on volunteers, which is problematic in its own right. Is that structure merely a bug (yielding errors from undertrained transient workers) or a feature (that enables coalition leaders to shirk responsibility by blaming disposable helpers)?

Frankly, any serious person who analyzes the issue must concede that GOTVs weaken election security. This isn't just my opinion. When discussing the GOTV practice of sending out-of-state envelopes full of registrations back to Virginia government offices, one county elections official I spoke with didn't mince words, saying, "if they come in bulk, I would be questioning that."

Of course, for every expert who agrees with this assessment, there will be another who leverages his or her position of power to keep the GOTV charade alive. Look no further than what happened when the liberal Georgia Secretary of State rejected applications bundled from an unsupervised registration drive that "did not follow correct procedures." A judge overruled her, effectively codifying that state government oversight was a worthless relic of a bygone era. Still not convinced? Ponder the predictable CNN response to a fairly recent conservative-led attempt at weakening GOTVs' grip over Tennessee. [Be on the lookout for the theory-bolstering reference to a "vague" carveout for "organizations that rely solely on volunteers to register voters."]

Between first-time ballot casters and voters who have changed addresses since the last cycle, tens of thousands of Americans are susceptible to getting run over by the "get out the vote" machine. If we truly care about election integrity, these organizations need to be throttled ASAP.

Note: the post above may contain commentary reflecting the author's opinion.


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