Marshall Ganz

Marshall Ganz, a longtime union and political organizer, is a doctoral candidate in sociaology at Harvard University and teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Recent Articles

Motor Voter or Motivated Voter?

The Motor Voter law was supposed to dramatically increase turnout and give marginalized groups more voice in politics. Unfortunately, getting these groups to register doesn't do any good if you don't give them reason to vote.

W hen Bill Clinton signed the 1993 Motor Voter bill, mandating states to offer on- the-spot voter registration at various government agencies, Republicans in California and several other states sought to undermine the new law by withholding critical funding and, later, by seeking court injunctions against its implementation. Although these officials justified their actions by warning that Motor Voter would increase voter fraud, partisan concerns may have been on their minds. Since nonvoters tend to be poorer than voters, many conservatives feared--just as many liberals hoped--that Motor Voter would produce a Democratic bonanza at the polls.These attempts to subvert the National Voter Registration Act, as Motor Voter is officially known, have failed in most cases. Although several states still lag behind in implementation, today most Americans can register to vote by mail or when they conduct the most routine government business, from applying for a driver's license to receiving public...

Voters in the Crosshairs

New technologies were supposed to enable campaigns to reach more voters. Instead, they ended up fragmenting and alienating much of the electorate.

Organize the whole state, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls . . . divide the county into small districts and appoint in each a sub- committee . . . make a perfect list of voters and ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote . . . and on election day see that every Whig is brought to the polls. Abraham Lincoln, Illinois State Register, February 21, 1840 C ampaigns and elections are the lifeblood of American democracy and the principal means by which citizens form and express political opinions. Any less than full and equal electoral participation puts democracy at risk. Today electoral participation is neither full nor equal, and it is getting worse. Paradoxically, new campaign technologies and practices bear significant responsibility for declining participation. While making it easier to communicate with voters and to create Lincoln's "perfect list," direct mail, databases of voters, polling, and targeted advertising also depress voter turnout and fragment the...