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Get Out the Vote

January 1, 2007

By Carolyn Schwaar

Realtors® have the chance to make “the voice of real estate” heard loud and strong during every election. Of course, that means they must vote. Low member voter
turnout can cripple your efforts to make an impact on local law making. Here are some ways in which Realtor® associations are getting members to vote, as well as some tips that may help your association during the next election.

The Santa Cruz Association of Realtors®, Calif., kicked off a voter registration drive in May at its annual Spring Fling BBQ. With traceable voter registration forms obtained from the local Department of Elections, each new voter registered is attributed to the association’s efforts. This vote drive will help build local political clout, says association chairperson Barbara J. Palmer. The goal is to register Realtors® and affiliates to vote, as well as homeowners at each transaction.

The Greater Nashville Association of Realtors®, Tenn., launched an aggressive program this year using e-mail blasts, the member publication, and its Web site to get Realtors® registered to vote. Getting Realtors® voting is a critical priority, says association CEO Don Kline. The association has earmarked RPAC funds to support the effort, which includes creating “Voting Realtor®” window clings (pictured above).

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors® get-out-the-vote program has raised the number of registered voter members from 52 percent to more than 80 percent in four years.
“Our major focus for voter registration has been at the new members orientation classes,” says Kipp Cooper, the association’s GAD. “Our government affairs assistant has become a voter registrar through the county and signs up new members during their breaks.” The association also mails members voter guides with tear away, postage paid, absentee ballot request forms.
“It is very empowering for a lobbyist to be able to explain to an elected official that not only do you represent an important trade group with 17,000 members, but that they are all registered voters that you can mobilize as well,” says Cooper.

The Bismarck Mandan Board of Realtors®, N.D., has incorporated absentee voting into its annual “Visit Your Board Office Day.” According to AE Nancy Diechert, members are invited to stop in to cast their vote (absentees are allowed one week before the election), update their member information, sign up for the banquet, register for door prizes, and enjoy refreshments.

The Pacific West Association of Realtors®, Calif., has a Web page (http://www.pwaor.com/_Government/RegToVote.aspx) devoted to helping members with various aspects of voter registration, including how to obtain registration cards, cast an absentee ballot, and vote online. The page also encourages members to provide resources for their clients to register to vote. One suggestion is to provide blank voter registration cards at member offices as a client service.
Here are more tips on getting out the vote.

Support voter registration organizations
Partner with or promote other organizations that register voters. Consider adding these links to your Web site. These nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations register voters and encourage voting:
• ActiVote America (http://www.activoteamerica.com)
• Rock the Vote (http://www.rockthevote.com)
• Declare Yourself (http://www.declareyourself.com)
• Just Vote (http://www.justvote.org)

Become a registration location
Promote your office as a place where members can stop in to register to vote. Contact your local Department of Elections for registration guidelines.

Make a plea in person
Research shows that in-person, face-to-face, get-out-the-vote campaigns increased voter turnout
7 to 12 percent—a result substantially higher than direct mail, e-mail, or phone calls.
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