Next to November 8, the most significant day in the electoral calendar this cycle may be October 11. That’s the deadline for voter registration in 16 states and territories, representing some two-fifths of the US population. The list includes seven of the top 10 states in terms of electoral votes, and several of the most hotly contested campaign battlegrounds, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
In the 2012 election, some 66 million eligible voters, or 30 percent of the total, were unable to vote due to lack of registration. Unregistered voters account for the bulk of the US’s comparatively low voter turnout, as 90 percent of citizens who register typically go on to vote. Compared with registered voters, those who don’t register are more likely to be young, lower-income and people of color.
Despite this—or perhaps because of this—corporate media have done little to alert the public about the upcoming deadline, or about voter registration in general. A search of Nexis transcripts from the three major broadcast news outlets—ABC, CBS and NBC—turned up no stories on any news show talking about registration deadlines over the past month. (These networks do have information about voter registration deadlines on their websites—but people looking online for information about the deadlines are people who don’t need to be informed that there are deadlines.) Considering the way shows like Meet the Press and This Week and Face the Nation are obsessed with the minutiae of campaign strategy, the failure to discuss the critical factor of the voter registration timeline seems like a major gap.