Tappan Vickery of HeadCount talks about voter registration

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National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, Sept. 22. (3dfoto/Shutterstock)
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Interview: Tappan Vickery, Director of Voter Engagement from HeadCount
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HeadCount is a nonprofit organization that works with musicians to promote participation in democracy in the United States. The Current is teaming with HeadCount to make it easier than ever to register to vote. We've made it our mission to get as many people registered to vote as possible leading up to National Voter Registration Day, which is Tuesday, Sept. 22.

JILL RILEY: I'm really excited to be joined by Director of Voter Engagement, Tappan Vickery, from HeadCount. Thank you, Tappan for joining me.

TAPPAN VICKERY: Thank you so much for having me, Jill. I'm really excited to talk to you guys. HeadCount was started in 2004, based on the idea of simply registering voters at concerts. We started in the jam-band community, and since then, we've grown tremendously and touched every genre of music, really based on the idea that we work with artists to harness the energy of their fans to make sure their voices are heard on Election Day.

It kind of reminds me of the whole Rock the Vote campaign that I remember from being a teenager. Now a week from today is National Voter Registration Day. Tell me about that day and why it is so important.

Well, National Voter Registration Day has officially been organized since 2012, and HeadCount is a founding organization, and the idea behind it is simply to bring people together, right before deadlines start to hit, and make sure people are registered. And there are several ways that the coalition works. There are organizations like ours that have two prongs: one is we work with artists and influencers to use social media and all of their communications resources to encourage people to register to vote, and also partners like The Current, to get the message out. And then we also have a field campaign, and there are a lot of grassroots and community organizations all over the country … there are thousands. I'm not even sure of the exact number right now. I know it's over 4,000 groups around the country [that] will be having grassroots voter-registration drives, whether you're in front of a library or a gas station, or you're working in a classroom. There are people talking about voter registration all over the country on Tuesday.

It's also been recognized by several secretaries of state, and the National Association of Secretaries of State. So it's a nonpartisan holiday where people really come together around voter registration.

So it's a week from today, National Voter Registration Day. I'm speaking with Tappan Vickery, who's the director of voter engagement for HeadCount. Why are we getting this campaign started today?

Well, you should know that because of COVID, there have been an average of two million voter registrations lost a month because people have had lower access to the DMV [called Driver and Vehicle Services or DVS in Minnesota] and other resources where they normally do in-person voter registrations. And you know, voter registration is processed often at the clerk — the county clerk, city clerk — level across the country. They're offices with people that can't take massive numbers of things at one time. We're starting the conversation early this year; we really are calling it "National Voter Registration Year" at HeadCount because really, we have been pushing it so hard. But we're starting it early to try to get people registered by next Tuesday. We want next Tuesday to be the day that everyone walks away and says, "I've done it; I'm ready. I can talk to my friends about it today and make sure they've done it because I've crossed it off my list," really to relieve the burden on the local offices who have to process all these forms.

Tappan Vickery
Tappan Vickery is Director of Voter Engagement at HeadCount. (photo courtesy HeadCount.org)

And while online voter registration is incredibly accessible and easier and does this directly through the state, three-quarters of voter registration still happens on paper, and even in states that have great online systems, many people don't even know that online voter registration is an option, or they have to have a current in-state ID to use an online voter-registration portal, which is a barrier of some people because they don't have an up-to-date ID, and then also, even if you can easily update your ID, the [states' driver-licensing and identification-issuing offices] being closed has been a challenge. So there are a lot of variables, and whether it's registering to vote or how you're going to vote, it's really important this year more than ever to plan ahead.

Now here in Minnesota, you can register to vote the day that you go in to your polling place, but why is it so important to just get it done ahead of time?

Well, Minnesota is great because they have Election-Day voter registration, but most of the country does not. There are a lot of states that have expanded voter-registration access. Even if you register to vote on the day of election or during early voting, there can sometimes be challenges to make sure your registration is verified. Depending on your state and what ID you provide, you may be put into a pot that doesn't get verified until after Election Day, so we just want to make sure that people are up to date before they go to the polls, before they request their by-mail ballot, across the country so that there's not any delay in making sure their ballots being counted or any delay in verifying their identity.

So let's say I'm looking to register to vote in the upcoming Election. Election Day, where it's my civic duty, it's my right — I mean, it's fundamental right to go into my polling place to vote. Where do I start? Where do I go?

It is incredible to me how intimidating it is for people. That is such a good question. And I will tell you one of the best things we can do as allies and friends in our community is be resources and break down those barriers, because for young voters and older voters alike, if they aren't' engaged in the process, it's scary , and you're embarrassed to ask questions. And so, let's break down all those barriers. You can go to HeadCount.org to get all the information you need for your state on one page. If you go to our website and click on When Where & How, you click on your state, we will provide all of that information on one page. If you go to the state pages, sometimes it's multiple links and click-throughs, and it can feel a little intimidating, and it's written with the terminology from the legislation, and so we really try to break that down and make it as simple as possible to access that information. You can go to our website, you can start the voter registration form — it takes about three minutes — and then you can either submit it directly online if you are able to do so because your ID lines up, or you need to print, sign and mail it from home, and we will send you the information on where you need to mail it; it comes with your completed registration form.

Perfect. Sounds easy enough. That's HeadCount.org. And don't be afraid to ask those questions that you think are silly because there are people that want to help you and want to guide you in the right direction, and it sounds like the process is really simplified over at the website, HeadCount.org, for more information. Tappan, I really appreciate you connecting with The Current. We really want to just promote participation in democracy in the upcoming election. I appreciate you getting this conversation started with us leading up to National Voter Registration Day, which is coming up in a week.

Thank you so much for your time, Jill. Everybody register!

Yes, let's do it! Tappan Vickery, Director of Voter Engagement from HeadCount, here on The Current.

External Links

HeadCount.org - official site

Tappan Vickery - biography at HeadCount.org