WASHINGTON – As a result of ambitious voter-registration efforts, especially in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Minnesota, millions of new voters will be able to cast ballots for president come Nov. 2.

The boom in registration reflects both the attraction of a competitive race, as well as the efforts of thousands of organizations nationwide that will now turn their focus to getting their new recruits to the polls on Election Day.

The groups have been under deadline pressure in 13 states, where voter registration closes on Monday.

The spike in voter registration has caught many county election offices off guard, forcing them to hire extra workers to process the overflow of applications. In Minnesota, the number of registered voters jumped by 56,691 since the June 18 primary. In Ohio, 116,000 voters were added to the rolls between Aug. 18 and Sept. 15. Still, many states won’t know the extent of the trend until all counties report their data after Monday.

“We’ve had to bring in more people to handle the flow of registration,” said John Williams, director of the elections office for Hamilton County, which is located in central Ohio. “There will certainly be more people showing up at the polls.”

Williams reported that 62,272 new voters had registered since Jan. 1 in his county alone.

Still, some experts are uncertain whether the higher registration will translate into greater turnout.

“Voting is a learned behavior,” said Doug Lewis, head of The Election Center, a nonprofit group that works with local election officials. “After you’ve voted three times, you’re far more likely to continue voting.”

Thousands of grassroots organizations plan to make sure new voters head into the voting booth. Many will offer transportation and child-care services to make voting more convenient. Vote, Run, Lead, a New York-based group reaching out to women ages 18 to 35, even plans to provide limousines on college campuses to drive students to election sites.

“Some states show high turnout for women in general, but extremely low turnout for young women,” said Erin Vilardi from Vote, Run, Lead. “We’re trying to get older and younger women to work together to get more involved.”

National Voice, a organization that helps community groups promote voting, will be mobilizing thousands of volunteers in key swing-states to go door-to-door, make calls and send literature to remind people about Election Day and their voting rights.

NOVEMBER 2, an umbrella organization that networks and aids 1,200 nonpartisan groups involved in registering and turning out voters all over the country, has contracted Nike’s advertisers to launch a full-scale marketing plan to convince people that Nov. 2 is the most important day of the year. Since National Voice launched the campaign, hundreds of thousands of T-Shirts emblazoned with NOVEMBER 2 have been sold, a trend that organizers hope will raise curiosity among nonvoters.

“You want people to come up and ask you what the shirt is all about so you can engage them in conversation about voting,” said Mark Ritchie, executive director of National Voice. “I get 15 to 20 questions about it a day.”

Having reached the goal of registering more than 2 million voters, the NOVEMBER 2 campaign will focus on mobilizing infrequent voters to reach a total of 4 million to 5 million overall.

Many of the organizations affiliated with the NOVEMBER 2 campaign have focused on registering and informing historically under-represented populations, particularly single women, young people and ethnic minorities.


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