July 7, 2016
By Darcy Caballero
The first time I ever did voter registration, I got one card. I was walking around an event in Houston and had received no training on the best way to register voters. It was just a huge park where there were performances happening and people were eating, so I just wandered aimlessly and shouted “are you registered to vote?” into the void. After that experience, I was incredibly hesitant to register voters.
This time, it would be different.
Registering voters itself isn’t difficult; you just hand people the form and they fill it out. The hardest part is getting people to listen to you and getting people to even care about registering to vote.
When you set foot on the event space, you’re always a little unsure of what to do. Do you stand on a corner? Do you go up to people? Do you scream at everyone passing by? The easiest way to get started is to just get started. Once you’ve passed the first 10 awkward minutes and someone says “no, I just moved into my new apartment!”…that’s when it gets fun. It’s so easy to get bogged down by the nos that the yesses are so, so satisfying. You start to accumulate your cards and by the end of the night, maybe you only got like 8 people, but that’s okay. That’s 8 more people who are now able to vote thanks to you.
Probably the most gratifying voter registration experience I’ve ever had was at Pride Festival 2015. I was running the TCDP booth and knew it was time to put my skills to the test.
When doing voter registration there are three rules:
I’ve come to learn that shouting excitedly at people and looking so pumped up, as if you just shotgunned two Monster energy drinks, is the best way to get someone to do something. If you ask someone to do something with enthusiasm, they’re likely to either reciprocate or at least crack a smile.
Also, if you’re concerned about looking dumb, you’re not gonna make it in this industry, kid. Putting yourself out there is the best and only way to have people respond positively to you inconveniencing them for 90 seconds. At Pride, we had a volunteer standing out in front of our booth waving a tiny American flag and dancing, and that, if anything, got us about 40% of our registrations that day (shout-out to Jamila!).
Going the extra mile to register voters is #majorkey. When there is an obstacle (no matter how small) to someone registering to vote, I will do everything in my power to remove it. I’ve held on to dogs, umbrellas in the rain, beers, and gave up my seat so that registering to vote is the easiest thing that person will do all day.
Registering people to vote always feels like a daunting task, but it really isn’t (at least, it isn’t in Austin). At the end of the day though, when you’re counting and signing your last few forms, it’s always fun to think about how many more people have become enfranchised because of you. I’ve registered elderly women who live by themselves and have a hard time making it to the tax office. I’ve registered previously incarcerated folks who didn’t even know they got their voting rights back! Seeing people engaged and excited about democracy and having their voices heard makes up for the amount of sweat I’ve produced at all of my events combined.
Now if only we could get our elected officials to care about enfranchising more voters…