Don't overlook rides to the polls to increase voter turnout

Free rides to the polls by groups both large and small are one of the methods credited for record turnout in last year's Alabama Special Election

Record voter turnout in the December 2017 Alabama special election was due in part to free rides to the polls.

Despite Alabama's inactive voter scheme -- with its provisional verification statement forms and county level rules, such as Mobile County's judge-ordered requirement that addresses on driver licenses match voter registration records -- Alabama voters did the unexpected.

Votes are Voices That Can't Be Heard at Home

The Alabama special election in December 2017 received national attention, not just for allegations of sexual misconduct levied at Republican candidate Roy Moore, but also because "once-deep-red counties turned blue," according to CityLab.

Record voter turnout was reported in several counties, including Dallas County, Lee County, Russell County and others. Much of the credit is widely given to black Alabamians, which turned out to be 30 percent of the voters -- showing a higher percentage of turnout than in the 2012 presidential election, according to the CityLab story.

In Baldwin and Mobile counties, early voting opportunities were cited in helping to boost record voter turnout:

But that wasn't available statewide. So what drove the stunning voter turnout?

Quite literally, it was a number of voter transportation efforts by large groups like the National Democratic Committee, Indivisible Project chapters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Vote Riders and their public interest, university and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) partners that offered free rides to the polls.

But it was also grassroots groups like Freedom Rides out of Lee County, which has no website nor social media presence.

Gov1 spoke with anonymous rides to the polls volunteers after the Alabama special election. They cited teamwork and organization for connecting voters without transportation to their polling precincts. Organizers of hyperlocal rides groups generally print up business cards with a number to call for rides on election day -- months in advance of an election. They implement volunteer corps and spearhead canvassing efforts to let residents in areas of limited transportation know that rides to the polls are available on election day.

One of the Freedom Rides' volunteers said she had a list of about 20 names of voters that called for rides to the polls in advance of the Alabama special election.

In Alabama, photo identification and voter registration are required to vote in an election. Residents cannot show up at the polls on election day and and register. "Alabama law prohibits any changes to the voters list within 10 days of an election," according to the city of Mobile website.

She drove one woman to the polls in darkness -- her precinct powered by a generator during a power outage on the day of the election. The voter told her driver she was concerned the voting machines would not have power. But they did, and she voted -- then got a ride home.

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