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Get a ‘Head Start’ on Voter Registration

By Michele McNeil — September 16, 2008 1 min read

Voter registration efforts are a key piece of many campaigns. Consider the decision by Barack Obama’s campaign to have him accept his nomination at Invesco Field in Denver, packed by 80,000 people—many from the swing state of Colorado. He got more than just cheers—his campaign also got those folks’ contact information for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts because they had to provide it in exchange for the ticket.

So it may be no small thing for the National Head Start Association and the League of Women Voters to mount a voter registration drive at the 2,600 Head Start programs across the country, which has the potential to reach the parents of 1 million children.

The voter-registration drive is permitted by language in the legislation signed in December 2007 that reauthorized Head Start. The national Head Start folks, in a press release announcing the voter drive, said: “The specific provision allows ‘nonpartisan organizations’ to use Head Start facilities ‘during hours of operation . . . to increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office’.”

The release went on to say that these voter efforts are also supported by Congress through the intent of the Motor Vehicle Registration Act, which increases access to voter registration opportunities for in “locations accessible to disenfranchised populations.”

This voter-registration drive—if it is executed—is nonpartisan but would likely help Barack Obama, because Head Start centers typically serve low-income, urban, and Democratic areas. Plus, Obama’s education plan calls for boosting funding for Head Start and quadrupling the number of children in Early Head Start (for kids ages zero to three). Sen. John McCain’s early education plan, however, doesn’t call for an expansion of Head Start that isn’t already in law.

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