Today (June 14) through Saturday, registering to vote will be as easy as checking out a book at your local library.
Across the Cape and on Martha's Vineyard, libraries will host a voter registration drive organized by Cape and Islands Vote 2018.
“It's just been mind-boggling, and it's taken off like a rocket,” said Laurie Veninger of North Truro. She started talking up the idea on the Outer Cape and watched as it spread quickly across the region. “I had at least 20 people lined up who were willing to take on some sort of responsibility for approaching libraries,” she said.
The point person in Orleans was Monica Goubaud, who registered voters in front of grocery stores when she lived in Oregon. “I've done this many times in the past,” she said. “I really believe in the democratic process.”
So do the 15 volunteers she's recruited to register voters at Snow Library June 14, 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Goubaud met with librarian Tavi Prugno, and stressed the non-partisan nature of the registration campaign. Prugno said he didn't find anything that prohibited it; the biggest concern was a location as “they don't have a lot of space in that little lobby,” Goudbaud said. Prugno offered the library's lower level, and organizers will have signs directing registrants.
“Snow Library is happy to offer this opportunity for facilitating registering people to vote,” Prugno wrote in an email reply. “My only concerns were that it be nonpartisan and that it would be set up so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic in and out of the library. Since both of these concerns were addressed, I'm happy to provide the library space for this event that will be beneficial to people in the community.”
Eldredge Public Library director Amy Andreasson agrees.
“They said, 'Can we put up a table?' and I said yes,” she said. “We always have voter registration material available in the library, and during specific months of the year we highlight that information. I think it's important for people to voice their opinion and participate in our democracy.”
So does Chatham point person Florence Seldin. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” she said.
“Our librarian was very positive” about the event, Seldin said. “I pointed out that it was nonpartisan. There will be no political clothing, no buttons or signs, and volunteers must refrain from discussing politics.” Voter registration hours at the Eldredge library will be June 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. and June 15 and 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The need to register voters is greater than many think.
“I just read a statistic that 680,000 people in the state of Massachusetts are not registered to vote,” Seldin said. “You can imagine what it may be in other places.” She said her grandson worked as a volunteer intern with an environmental group that found several hundred thousand voters in the state who identified as concerned about the environment were not registered to vote.
“Even among people who feel strongly about an issue,” Seldin said, “they must understand that if they don't vote, they can't influence their legislators, and every vote counts. Some of our elections have been extremely close. In Harwich, Ed McManus won his seat by 21 votes.”
Harwich, however, will be the one town on the Cape where the library voter drive won't take place.
Veninger said her local contact person told her the library director contacted the board of trustees, which declined to host the event.
“The building is just really not set up for that,” Brooks assistant librarian Emily Milan said in an interview. “The only meeting space provided for groups of this type is the basement. My understanding is that the group was looking for something more visible. We learned a lot about operating in the lobby when the building was closed due to electrical problems. There's just not adequate space.”
Harwich Town Clerk Anita Doucette has a solution.
“Just come to the clerk's office,” she said. “That's part of my job, to register people to vote.”
To register (or pre-register, if you're 16 or 17) to vote, you must be a U.S. citizen and a Massachusetts resident. A driver's license can be used as identification. If you're a visitor to the Commonwealth, you'll be given information about how to register online in your home state. To be able to vote in the Massachusetts primary election on Sept. 4, you must be registered by Aug. 15.