Those of us concerned about the influence of corporate money in our electoral process should rest a little easier. As Kristin Hansen, volunteer for OFA, reminded Waukesha County Democrats at the monthly meeting on Thursday night, “Checks don’t vote, people vote.” No matter how much cash the Walker administration rakes in for fancy ads, in the end, the outcome is up to voters. It’s all who shows up on election day. And there’s something we, as ordinary citizens, can do to increase voter turnout that is simple and, I’ve been told, very enjoyable: become a Special Registration Deputy, or SRD.
I, myself, had put off becoming an SRD because I didn’t really know what it was, I thought it would require a huge time commitment, and that strangers would yell at me (like they did with recall signature collection). Turns out, I was wrong on all counts. Jim Brown, super-volunteer from Waukesha, answered all of my questions about the whole SRD experience after the Waukesha Dems meeting on Thursday.
Despite its official-sounding name, Jim told me it’s easy to become a Special Registration Deputy. You just have to be eligible to vote in Wisconsin, be willing to fill out some forms, and participate in a short training session. He said anyone can call their local OFA office to sign up for a training.
Jim said it’s especially important to get new voters registered because Republicans recently changed election laws, and voters can no longer register 20 days before an election. So SRDs will be instrumental in registering those who may not be aware of this new law by making the whole process smoother, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’ll actually show up to vote on election day.
Also due to the same Voter ID Law, the Statewide Registration Deputy Program has been essentially eliminated. That means you’re only allowed to be deputized in each municipality, and some municipalities have chosen not to deputize people.
Waukesha is one such municipality.
Even though two judges struck down the Voter ID Law because it’s unconstitutional, and it’s technically not in effect right now, the Republicans have appealed the decisions and may get the law reinstated in time for the May/June elections. Stranger things have happened, and nobody’s taking any chances. And the Statewide Registration Deputization program has not been reinstated, as far as anyone knows.
Jim Brown says all these changes are “frustrating,” and he’s not happy that he can’t register new voters here in Waukesha County, but it’s not going to slow him down. In fact, he told me, he’s been out registering people in Milwaukee County, and “that’s where the most people are who need to be registered who are Democrats who are not yet registered” are located.
He also said that, unlike gathering recall signatures, he’s had “no hassles that I’ve run into so far, and I seriously doubt you’re going to have a problem in these very, very Democratic districts in Milwaukee where we’re going.”
Jim made it clear that the whole SRD experience has been enjoyable so far. “It’s rewarding to find out that you can get out there and help people get registered to vote” and that “it’s very easy, takes about a minute or two to fill out the forms and as soon as people see how easy it is they’re willing to do it.” SRDs go out in pairs, and “between the two of us in two days we registered 28 people in a couple of hours in the afternoon…It’s easy to do, fun, pleasant, safe..we’ve got virtually 100% support for what we’re doing.”
I like to refer to Jim Brown as a “super-volunteer” because of his passion for and dedication to his volunteer work. His enthusiasm is also contagious. Come Monday morning, I’ll be phoning the Waukesha OFA office to sign up for the nearest SRD training, and I hope you’ll consider joining me. It’s an easy way to make a huge difference.
(The number for the Waukesha OFA Office at 805 Clinton St. is 262-955-2571; ask for Sam Rikkers.)