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Columbia Missourian

Follow-ups to voter registration drives differ between parties

By Valerie Insinna
October 29, 2008 | 7:16 p.m. CDT

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, including the Obama campaign, are reminding voters to go out to the polls, but Tina Hervey, a 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," 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 and 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, a Missouri public relations secretary for Obama's campaign, said that although the "Get Out the Vote" campaign targets Obama supporters for follow-up calls before and after the election, the campaign's voter registration efforts 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 registrations goal.

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

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

"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."

Similar to the Obama campaign, the nonpartisan group Association of Community Organizations 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's executive director in Missouri.

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

Ordower said usually 70 percent to 72 percent of the voters ACORN registers vote on Election Day, but he 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 for this election, compared with about 12,000 in 2004.

Student political organizations at MU mirrored voter registration strategies of statewide 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 nonpartisan group that registered voters at College Republicans' tables.

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