The Florida Family Policy Council intentionally avoided traditional registration drives because of the state's restrictions, said John Stemberger, the group's president. The group's website includes a registration form that people can fill out, and allows volunteers to find unregistered citizens who have been identified as likely to favor the council's views. Those volunteers can then call, email or personally visit those people. Among other things, the council opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.
"We are going both old school and new school," Stemberger said. "The kind of not-your-father's-Oldsmobile version of voter registration, things that we're doing, are direct mail and we also have an automated program."
That doesn't mean traditional drives have been abandoned. Data-driven techniques are viewed as a supplement for some groups, while others, such as the League of Women Voters, still are conducting only traditional face-to-face registration drives.
And avoiding new restrictions isn't the only reason for alternatives to traditional registration drives.
Page Gardner, president of the Voter Participation Center, said she chose the list-based approach when the group, then known as Women's Voices, began its efforts in 2004 because that provides near-universal reach and targets people by demographics instead of geography.
"The advantage of this program with mail is that we can reach out to broad universe of people very quickly and to those people that we may not be able to meet in front of a grocery store or canvassing and talking to people at a door or at an event," said NAACP's Randolph.
Commercially available data such as magazine subscription and mail order purchasing lists are used to identify people in various targeted groups and match them against voter registration rolls to identify which ones are not registered. The lists also are cross-checked with Social Security data to exclude people who have died.
So far, nearly 8 percent, or about 470,000, of the applications the Voter Participation Center sent out before the current mailing have been turned in. It may seem like a small number, but "that's huge in terms of direct mail," Gardner said.
One or 2 percent is the norm, although a key difference is the only expense for turning in a registration form is the price of a postage stamp.
Regardless of what approach is taken, there are still millions of eligible people not registered to vote. The Pew Center on the States issued a report in February saying 25 percent of those eligible to vote are not registered. The study found one of every eight registrations is out of date, mostly because of people moving.
Pew Director of Election Initiatives David Becker said the organization has been working with eight states to modernize their registration activities and plans to expand that effort after this year's election.
"We are still using paper, pen and postal mail to drive our voter registrations in the 21st Century," Becker said. "You don't do it with taxes. You don't do it with parking tickets. You don't do it to renew your driver's license."
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