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Mark Ferrulo: Campaign trying to boost registration of people who rarely vote

There’s never been a more unpredictable, volatile election. Or one where the stakes are so high.

And, in Florida, where we have a history of extremely close elections, voters won’t only be selecting candidates for president and the U.S. Senate this year. They will also be deciding who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court for the next 20 years and choosing between two starkly different Americas.

Will we welcome diversity? Will we close opportunities? Will we listen to the scientists about climate change or bury our head in the sand? Will it be harder or easier to vote, get health care or a college education, and have an economy that works for all Floridians, not just the wealthy?

Will we be a nation that disparages the poor, unmarried women, immigrants and people of color, a country that works only for the powerful and politically connected?

Or can we register and turn out enough Florida voters who believe it’s time to reform the way we run elections and our government, close the gap between rich and poor, pay women the same as men working the same job, and ensure that every American can succeed?

This year, for the first time in our nation’s history, the majority of voters deciding America’s future will be the unmarried women, people of color and young voters who make up the New American Majority and the majority of eligible voters.

But only if they are registered and turn out to vote.

That’s why the nonprofit, nonpartisan Voter Participation Center (VPC) is mailing 626,000 voter registration applications into Florida this month. Unmarried women, Latinos, African-Americans and millennials make up a strong majority — 58 percent — of the eligible voters in the state. But 40 percent of them are not registered to vote. And the number of unregistered young voters is even higher: 54 percent of millennial Floridians are not registered to vote.

VPC and a coalition of civic engagement organizations are trying to close that gap. Since 2004, VPC has helped 2.7 million Americans register to vote — including 328,113 New American Majority members in Florida.

By mailing voter-registration applications to prospective voters, VPC enables eligible individuals to fill in, sign the applications and mail them straight to election registrars’ offices in pre-addressed envelopes to be certified by government officials.

The VPC also is providing prospective voters with the online address for the secretary of state’s website and phone numbers to their county supervisor of elections.

In a year when so much is on the line, when efforts to suppress the voices of voters continue across the nation, when the New American Majority — which makes up the majority of people who can vote in our state — could finally make up the majority of people who do vote, it has never been more imperative that Florida — a state that knows better than most how important every vote is — allows as many people as possible to register and vote.

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Mark Ferrulo is executive director of Progress Florida.

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