Voter registration in America is beyond a mess.
Dead people still registered. Inaccurate data. Handwritten records. Citizens registered in more than one state. Inefficient, outdated systems. Runaway costs.
Based on this month's brief from the Pew Center on the States ("Inaccurate, Costly and Inefficient: Evidence That America's Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade"), tackling this mess as soon as possible would seem a no-brainer.
Except there's one very big problem.
Pew's voter-registration summaries are based on numbers from Catalist, a data-crunching organization that heralds itself as "serving the progressive community" (i.e., the political far left).
That ain't the half of it.
Politico called Catalist "the new Democratic data clearinghouse that coordinated voter-contact programs for a host of liberal groups in the 2008 election." The Atlantic noted that Catalist's "progressive/Democratic data-mining and targeting operation measurably helped elect Barack Obama."
Get-out-the-vote operations mounted by the Obama campaign, the Democratic Party and progressive organizations mobilized more than one million dedicated volunteers on Election Day. But it was buttressed by a year-long, psychographic voter targeting and contact operation, the likes of which Democrats had never before participated in. In 2008, the principal repository of Democratic data was Catalist, a for-profit company that acted as the conductor for a data-driven symphony of more than 90 liberal groups, like the Service Employees Union—and the DNC—and the Obama campaign.
So, beyond Catalist's clearly stated mission, client list, and left-leaning accomplishments, why might its numbers throw Pew's voter-registration conclusions into question?
Notably Pew found that young people and those "living in communities affected by the economic downturn" were among the groups most greatly affected by voter-registration flaws—an issue the Obama reelection campaign would presumably love to address.
And while Nathaniel Persily—a law professor and political scientist at Columbia—told the New York Times it's “not clear" that such findings carry "a uniform partisan effect,” what is "pretty clear" to him is that "Democrats want to enact measures that make voter registration easier, and Republicans fear that would be an invitation to fraud.”
(Not that the New York Times is concerned; it merely characterized Catalist as "a company that collects and sells information about voting-age Americans based on data from public and commercial sources.")
So, with Catalist's numbers driving the conversation, who could possibly be afraid?
No big deal that Catalist was founded by Harold Ickes, a deputy chief of staff for President Clinton, amid "dissatisfaction with the DNC's data efforts in the 2004 election and financed by wealthy Democrats," Politico said, adding not insignificantly that Catalist's "more than 100 million 'contacts' to about 50 million Americans -- which include mailings and email blasts as well as knocks on doors -- raised the level at which voters participated, and offered Obama his margins in some key states."
And after all, if the Catalist founder can have ties to a former Democratic president, stands to reason that newer employees can have ties to the current Democratic president, right?
Looks like that's the case with Marshall Miller, the deputy director of analytics at Catalist, who worked for Obama for America in 2008 and then the Presidential Inaugural Committee until February 2009.
And in case you're wondering if the Pew Center on the States' brief disclosed any of Catalist's leftward political leanings, that'd be a "no."
Nope, nothing to worry about.
Now get out there and register!