National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) is observed each year on September 19th in the United States. It was first established in 2012 by the non-partisan National Voter Registration Day organization to spread awareness and encourage voter registration across the country. Since then, it has played an important role in fueling civic participation and bringing more voices into the electoral process.
As NVRD enters its 10th year, millions of Americans have registered on or around this date thanks to the collaborative efforts of thousands of groups, officials and volunteers. It has become a catalyst for strengthening democracy by facilitating voter registration, civic education and turnout. Here is a deeper look at the origins and impact of this important civic holiday over the past decade.
The Origins of National Voter Registration Day
National Voter Registration Day sprung from a desire to make voter registration more accessible and convenient for all eligible citizens. With 48% of Americans not registered to vote in 2011, NVRD founders aimed to address this issue through a coordinated, non-partisan civic effort.
Several influential groups came together to establish September 27th as the designated date each year – the Tuesday four weeks before federal voter registration deadlines in most states. This created a critical window for maximizing new registrations before state cut-off points. The founding partners included The Voter Participation Center and several other key nonprofits.
Since that first year, NVRD has expanded significantly as a civic holiday celebrated nationwide. Involvement has grown from just a handful of states in 2012, to 100% of U.S. states plus the District of Columbia now marking the date. Partner organizations now number in the thousands, including state and local governments, libraries, universities, companies and more.
Spreading Registration Efforts Across the U.S.
Through coordinated promotion and grassroots events, National Voter Registration Day has successfully spread awareness of voter registration requirements across the U.S. In the first year alone, more than 200,000 Americans registered to vote on or around NVRD.
As participation has grown, so too have registration numbers. Over 4 million Americans have registered on or around September 27th since 2012. The holiday now accounts for about 5% of all new registrations in a typical federal election year. Events are organized in all 50 states leveraging diverse venues and partners to make registration widely accessible.
Some notable examples include libraries hosting registration drives; companies providing registration resources for employees; motor vehicle departments adding signup information; high schools and universities registering young voters; and community organizations registering underserved populations. Online promotion further extends the reach through digital registration resources and reminders.
Studies confirm NVRD has boosted overall turnout in elections following new NVRD registrations. For example, the 2014 midterm saw increased turnout among targeted demographics like young people and minorities – directly attributable to the expanded registrations driven by NVRD efforts that year.
Overcoming Barriers to Participation
An important aspect of National Voter Registration Day’s mission is to remove barriers that may discourage or prevent eligible citizens from registering to vote. Some hurdles addressed through collaborative NVRD efforts include:
- Lack of knowledge about registration deadlines and requirements
- Difficulty accessing and submitting registration forms
- Complicated registration systems across various jurisdictions
- Low civic awareness or engagement among certain demographics
- Population mobility requiring registration updates
NVRD works to simplify the registration process and promote registration opportunities through a diversity of accessible, localized partner events. Information is widely shared in-person and digitally regarding voter ID laws, provisional voting options and more. Partner groups often provide direct registration assistance and language support too.
This has helped fuel consistent annual increases in NVRD registration numbers even as overall registration rates plateaued or declined in some past midterm election years, highlighting the holiday’s effectiveness in overcoming participation barriers.
Facilitating Civic Education & Turnout
In addition to boosting new voter registrations each year, National Voter Registration Day programming also performs an important civic education function nationwide. Informational events and materials on NVRD day focus on increasing understanding of:
- Candidates and issues on upcoming ballots
- Election/voting procedures and requirements
- Importance of participation in the democratic process
- How to check or update existing registration status
- Options for early and absentee voting
Such education and outreach has bolstered voter turnout in elections following NVRD. For example, though 2018 was not a presidential year, NVRD efforts fueled higher turnout among key demographics versus the 2014 midterms. This shows how both short and long-term participation impacts have strengthened American democracy over the holiday’s decade-long history.
The Legacy & Future of NVRD
National Voter Registration Day has become an indispensable annual tradition, helping engage millions of new voters through innovative, collaborative efforts. Over its 10-year history, NVRD has left an indelible mark on civic participation levels by removing barriers, promoting education and fueling engagement.
As the democratic process faces ongoing challenges, NVRD’s mission of broadening involvement remains critical. Continued growth and new strategies will be key to extending the holiday’s reach and impact. Additional voter protection laws may also enhance the accessibility and integrity emphasized through NVRD’s coordination.
Overall, NVRD’s legacy demonstrates how collective civic action can effectively strengthen American democracy over time. Its annual reminder for voters to check their registration serves as an inspiration all year round. With committed partners nationwide, September 27th will continue fueling voter empowerment and fueling the democratic process for many elections to come.