I’ve knocked a lot of doors this election.
And I’ve seen some consistent trends.
Voter registration at apartments is significantly lower than that of single-family residential homes.
There’s a variety of reasons.
- People who live in apartments generally move a lot more frequently and often forget to re-register to vote at their new apartments.
- Apartments generally have more immigrants when compared to the population at-large. (*But statistically, even among US citizens, registration rate at apartments is much lower.)
- Renters who live in apartments are less likely to feel invested in their communities, since apartment complexes are professionally managed. When people feel less invested in their communities, they’re also less likely to civically engage and vote.
But regardless of the reason, I think it’s safe to say democracy is better off when more people are engaged and more people vote. Voting is one of the feedback loops for democracy, and it’s a pulse-check of approval.
If single-family homeowners are disproportionally represented relative to renters in elections, then it’s fair to say their interests are probably disproportionally represented as well.
This isn’t a desired outcome for democracy.
I believe one of the best ways to mitigate this problem is to make people register to vote whenever they move into a new apartment. This way voting data is always up to date.
My idea isn’t without precedent.
Minneapolis did something very similar. From Citylab:
“Having landlords put registration forms into the hands of their new tenants is a practical way for making sure local election administrators have accurate voter information…
The city of Minneapolis provides the registration packet, which come in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali languages and can be emailed or handed to tenants in print form. (Frey said he looked into possible complications involving immigrant tenants who might be ineligible to vote and said the instructions written in the materials are clear about who can and who cannot register.)…
Having up-to-date voter registration is relevant to renting an apartment, of course, if neighborhoods are to be represented by all of the people living in them come elections time. Still, residency has long been a problem when it comes to voting rights, especially when renters are pitted against property owners.”
Democracy should be easy. Let’s remove hurdles and make our voter base more representative of everyone who lives in a district, so we can adequately assess and provide resources to residents.
On a separate note, I also think we should make it easier and much less hostile to do political outreach in apartments. It’s currently very difficult to do outreach through means other than mail and social media, yet studies consistently show voters respond best to face-to-face canvassing. I can’t stress this enough, democracy works better when dialogue is happening and physical outreach is being done. Mail is for lazy politicians.
If you’re one of those people who think you can “do your own research”, you’re underestimating media bias in coverage of local elections and the influence of political party machinery and special interests. You’re also overestimating how much information is available for local elections. I’m not sorry to bother you once every 4 years at the door to try to build a healthy relationship with a future constituent.