National Voter Registration Day, first observed in 2012, is a national holiday celebrating our democracy and serves as a reminder for citizens to register to vote. The act of registering to vote has sparked discussions across generations and political affiliations, as well as engaged movements for civil and human rights. Below is a selection of public radio and television programs in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting that document the sentiments of and historical contexts around the right to vote, or in some cases, the choice not to. These episodes may contain language which is no longer generally considered politically or socially appropriate.
This recording documents an event at New York’s City Hall sponsored by the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts and Sciences and Professions. Speakers encourage Voters Registration Week (Monday, Oct. 7 – Saturday, Oct. 12, 1946).
Speakers include Deputy Mayor Thomas J. Corcoran, speaking on behalf of Mayor O’Dwyer, and Broadway actors Gordon Heath and Adele Jerome. Followed a parade of Broadway actors. Followed by short announcement encouraging women to vote.
This radio recording features a panel discussion with young people on topics like voting obligation, voting age, ways that individuals can grow their knowledge (books, people, school), responsibilities of young citizens, and choosing the best citizens in their schools.
This episode features a conversation with Florence Hope Luscomb, an American architect and woman suffrage activist in Massachusetts. She dedicated herself fully to activism in the women’s suffrage movement and talks about the conditions women faced that led to the historic Seneca Falls Convention in 1850 to discuss women’s rights, as well as the voting rights of women in the Wyoming territory.
This episode features a discussion on universal voter registration, the pros and cons as well as its political chances for survival. The guests are Richard Moe, Bill Frenzel, Marie Garber, Thomas Roeser.
From the transcript:
JIM LEHRER: … Candidate Jimmy Carter told the Democratic National Convention last July it’s time for universal voter registration. But now, nearly a year later, President Carte’s plan to accomplish it has run into problems. There was supposed to have been a vote in Congress this week on an administration proposal to allow people to register at the polling place on Election Day. But there will be no vote this week; it was postponed a few weeks because the proposal, thought to be in good shape with the support of the Democratic majority as well as some bipartisan support from the Republicans, is in trouble. Local election officials, Southern Democrats, Republicans and others have come down hard on the idea, claiming that it will be impossible to administer and will encourage vote fraud among other things.
Tonight, a look at that Election Day idea, the pros and the cons as well as its political chances for survival, first with one of the key architects of the Carter proposal, Richard Moe, Chief of Staff to Vice President Walter Mondale. The administration plan is patterned after a system used in the State of Minnesota, the home state of both Vice President Mondale and Mr. Moe. Mr. Moe in fact was the State Democratic Chairman there before joining the Mondale staff. Mr. Moe, what would this new system accomplish?
The main topic of this episode is the Non-Voters. The guests are John Judis, Curtis Gans. Byline: Jim Lehrer, Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
From the transcript:
MacNEIL: Good evening. As Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan continue to slug away at each other, off in quiet rooms away from the noise and stink of the campaign, politicians are worried about getting Americans out to vote for anyone. In every election since 1960, although a larger number of Americans has voted, the percentage of those eligible doing so has declined. When Kennedy defeated Nixon in 1960, 62.8 percent of the electorate cast ballots. When Carter beat Ford in 1976, only 54.4 percent bothered to vote. In this year of rampant disenchantment with the candidates, voter turnout may reach a new low. Tonight, the Americans who will not vote and why.
The main topic of this episode is Voting Rights on Trial. The guests are Henry Hyde, Don Edwards, Robert Brinson.
From the transcript:
MacNEIL: The curtain went up this week on what will probably be the hottest and most important civil rights issue facing this Congress. For the past two days, a House judiciary subcommittee has held hearings on whether to extend the 1965 voting rights act. The act was intended to end discrimination against blacks seeking to vote in the South. Among other things, it permanently forbids poll taxes and the use of literacy tests nationwide. It was extended later to protect Hispanics and other non- English-speaking minorities. Although key provisions of the act don’t expire until next year, bills have already been introduced to extend or amend it. Critics say it’s no longer needed, and represents unwarranted federal intrustion into local affairs. Supporters say it is still needed, and that failure to extend it will end the progress minorities have made. Tonight, the opening round in the voting rights battle of 1981. Charlayne Hunter-Gauh is in Washington.
This episode of Evening Exchange features a conversation on the impact of the black vote nationally and locally in the 1992 election. Topics covered include voter registration, the increase in voters who are black, electing black leaders, and how candidates seek or don’t seek support from black voters.
This episode of Focus interviews Adam Segal of the Hispanic Voter Project Director, Washington Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University.
Curated by Ryn Marchese, AAPB Engagement and Use Manager