Speed and Ease the Keys to Voter Registration Drives

By Tom Bacon

A new Washington State study shows that people eligible to vote - but not registered to do so - are more likely to become voters if the process is quick and simple. The study done for the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), boiled down to a marketing effort.

The Washington secretary of state's office found that focused messages to targeted groups increased voter registration rates. And the best mailings stressed the speed and simplicity of registration. Postcards sent to prospective voters simply said "3 minutes, Click. Done. Register to vote online."

Similar messages - one relying on peer pressure to register, and the other with only dry, essential information - were not as effective. The actual returns were only 5-point-1 percent for the online "quick and easy" cards and 4-point-7 percent for the community cards, those stressing the social norm of being a registered voter.

But Lindsay Prior of the secretary of state's office said the numbers were nearly 50 percent higher than registrations would have been without the low-cost postcard marketing effort. Prior also noted that the cards were sent out in an off-election year when no presidential or statewide candidates were on the ballot.

The study was supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The electronic registration center is an experiment pioneered by seven states, including Washington, in 2012 to increase voter registration. More than 188,000 eligible, but unregistered Washingtonians were included in the marketing test.
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