Missouri political party organizers split on registration follow-up
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Missouri political party organizers split on registration follow-up

Date: October 29, 2008
By: Valerie Insinna
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Although both Republicans and Democrats helped register voters for this election, party organizers are split on what constitutes adequate follow-up.

Democratic organizations such as the Obama campaign remind the voters to go out to the polls, but the Missouri Republican Party spokeswoman said follow-up phone calls are a violation of privacy. 

"That flies into the face of your vote being your vote," spokeswoman Tina Hervey said. "We don't want to become Big Brother."

Hervey said the Republican Party encouraged all citizens to register by attending events such as county fairs to country concerts.

"Our goal is to reach out to as many Missourians as we possibly can," she said.

Hervey said that unlike Democratic efforts, the GOP did not focus primarily on potential Republican voters. The party did not keep count of registrations or set a goal.

Justin Hamilton, Missouri Public Relations Secretary for Obama's campaign, said while the "Get Out to Vote" campaign targets Obama supporters for follow up calls before and after the election, the campaign's voter registration effort extended to anyone who wanted to register.

Although the Obama campaign had no plans to release the number of voters registered, Hamilton said it had surpassed its 75,000 registration goal.

"We've got a very extensive outreach effort here," he said.

Hamilton cited Obama's message of change as motivation for voters concerned with the economy, higher education prices, and health care.

"We're at a very critical juncture at our nation's history," he said. "People are looking for someone who can get us out of this mess."

Like the Obama campaign, the non-partisan group Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now follows up with potential voters with a minimum of two calls before the campaign, and a follow up call afterward.

ACORN is more likely to make reminder calls to voters who are involved with the group said Jeff Ordower, ACORN executive director in Missouri.

"We spent an increased effort," he said. "This is an absolutely historical election."

Ordower said usually 70-72 percent of the voters ACORN registers vote on Election Day, but Ordower said he thinks the number for this election will be higher.

"There are real reasons to go out and vote this year," he said.

Ordower said ACORN had registered about 34,000 Missourians this election compared with about 12,000 in 2004.

Student political organizations at the University of Missouri-Columbia mirrored the voter registration strategies of state-wide organizations.

Brian Roach, Vice President of the MU College Democrats, said the organization worked along with the Obama campaign to register thousands of students.

"Students have been a forgotten constituency in policy," he said. "The nature of this election has excited young people like never before."

Fearing that registering voters could compromise the ethics of the MU College Republicans, President Jonathan Ratliff said the organization did not register voters this year.

Instead, interested students were directed to a member of the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a non-partisan group that registered voters at College Republicans' tables.

"Voter registration is a non-partisan issue, and we strongly believe it should stay that way," Ratliff said.