The Democratic National Committee has launched a new initiative that aims to increase the number of voters nationwide.
During a press conference call Tuesday, DNC Director of Voter Expansion Pratt Wiley said the Voter Expansion Project aims to make sure that every eligible U.S. citizen can register to vote, that every registered voter can vote and that votes are accurately counted.
Former President Bill Clinton announced the start of the project on Feb. 27. The project will target groups that the DNC believes face major obstacles to voting, such as college students.
Wiley said the DNC will use a number of tools to reach its goal, the most effective of which will be educating potential voters.
“A well-educated voter is going to be able to solve most of their own problems,” he said.
Other tools for helping to increase the number of voters include using federal or state legislation, executive action and lawsuits to stop laws they feel infringe on a citizen’s ability to vote, Wiley said.
Wiley said college students face particular challenges when registering to vote, such as misinformation about voting restrictions.
“Why should it be harder to register to vote than to register for your classes?” he said.
Edward May, a sophomore majoring in education, said that while he didn’t vote in the city election last fall, he did register to vote about two years ago at the New Mexico State Fair.
“I registered in 2012 to vote for the president, but I usually don’t get into it unless it’s a real election year,” he said.
May said he thinks the only obstacle college students face is their own motivation to register.
“I don’t think that it’s materially hard to get registered,” he said. “There are tons of places to get registered. It’s just that a lot of college-age people don’t want to vote.”
May said he thinks college students don’t want to vote because they feel that their needs won’t be met by the people they’d be electing.
“I feel like they just think, ‘Screw it, I have better things to do,’” he said.
Jeremy Salazar, 19, said people have approached him about registering, but he never got around to it.
“Whoever is going to be (elected) is going to be it,” he said. “One vote won’t change it. I’m going to live my life the way I want to live it. No matter who thinks they run it.”
During the phone conference, some attendees raised concerns that the initiative would encourage voter laws that would not require voters to show state identification, and that this could lead to an increase in fraud.
In response to the concern, Wiley said safety measures are already in place, and instances of fraud are low across the country. He said cracking down on cases of fraud isn’t worth not allowing a large number of people to vote.
“The costs of denying hundreds of thousands of people the right to be heard is simply too great to catch one or two people who may have, in order to prove a point, skirted the system,” he said.
Wiley said increasing the number of voters would lead to a stronger country, as well as a stronger Democratic Party.
“We measure our success by making sure that everyone can vote, making sure every voice is heard, not just Democratic voters, but every voter,” he said. “We think that that’s good for democracy. We think that that’s good for our party.”