It almost worked in Florida in 2000, and it might in Iowa too.
Iowans take their civic responsibilities seriously. According to Secretary of State Chet Culver (D), about 95 percent of all eligible voters are registered, and both campaigns expect a record turnout. Thanks to the long and competitive battle in the caucuses last winter, Democratic registration has surged by 50,000 since January, putting Democrats nearly at parity with Republicans. "We only have roughly 100,000 people left in the whole state out of an eligible pool of 2.2 million," Culver said of unregistered voters. "It's unbelievable."
Not to mention Patty Murray's Washington:
...political scholars and voting experts believe that 2004 could be a boom year for voting among the poor -- in part because of a massive effort by a range of political and grass-roots organizations to register new voters in poor and minority neighborhoods in swing states and here in Washington.
Washington Citizen Action, a grass-roots lobbying group, registered more than 50,000 voters this summer and fall -- most of them in King and Snohomish counties. The group has fought state cuts to health care programs for the poor and wanted more voting power behind its efforts.
At the same time, the Statewide Poverty Action Network, a non-profit group dedicated to the creation of living-wage jobs, was knocking on 20,000 doors in working class, ethnically diverse neighborhoods of apartments and rental homes in Auburn and Kent.
There, residents told canvassers that their battles to get health care coverage and afford prescription drugs and their frustration with not being able to get training for better-paying jobs were their main concerns, said network director Aiko Schaefer.
A surprising number of people were already registered to vote, but said they weren't in the habit of voting because they "felt politicians don't pay attention to them," she added.
The group responded by creating a voters guide that was mailed to the targeted neighborhoods in which Washington candidates outlined their specific plans for expanding health care coverage to lower-income people, creating jobs and making it more affordable for working parents to return to school. It was an attempt to give low-income voters a map for making an informed choice.
Michael McDonald, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, a non-partisan Washington, D.C., think tank, and an expert on voter turnout, said he expects outreach efforts in poor neighborhoods across the country to have a significant impact in the Nov. 2 election.
McDonald said low-income voters are "very persuadable and easily mobilized" to vote when they receive the visits, mailings and follow-up phone calls usually lavished on likely voters. He predicts a record turnout of about 60 percent of the voting age population on Nov. 2.
"And since those at the top of the ladder already participate, the increase will come primarily from the lower rungs," said McDonald, who also is a political science professor at George Mason University in Northern Virginia.