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Voter Registration Activity and GOTV
Now that the general election Federal Election Activity (FEA) time periods have begun, party committees may want to review the definitions of “voter registration activity” and “get-out-the-vote-activity” (GOTV), which were revised in 2010. This article answers common questions about those revised regulations. For more information about FEA, please consult the Campaign Guide for Political Party Committees.
How did the voter registration activity and GOTV definitions change under the revised rules?
In response to the decision in Shays v. FEC (Shays III Appeal), the Commission expanded the definitions of voter registration and GOTV activities to cover activities that urge, encourage or assist potential voters in registering to vote or in voting regardless of whether the message is delivered individually or to a group of people via mass communication. The Commission also created exceptions for brief, incidental exhortations to register to vote or to vote; GOTV and voter identification activities conducted solely in connection with a nonfederal election; and for certain de minimis activities.
Under the revised rules, voter registration activity means:
GOTV activity means:
The Commission carved out exceptions to both of these definitions for brief exhortations to register to vote or to vote, so long as the exhortations are incidental to a communication, activity or event. 100.24(a)(2)(ii). Exhortations must be both brief and incidental to qualify for the exception.
Can you give examples of activities that qualify for the “brief and incidental exhortation” exemption?
Under the revised rules, a phone call for a state party committee fundraiser that provides recipients with information about the event, solicits donations and concludes by reminding the listener, “Don’t forget to register to vote,” would qualify for the exemption because the exhortation to register to vote is both brief and incidental. Also, a mailer praising the public service record of a mayoral candidate and/or discussing the candidate’s platform that concludes by reminding the recipients to “Vote [for mayoral candidate] in November!” would qualify for the exemption because the exhortation to vote is both brief and incidental.
Our local party committee would like to send out two mailers during the FEA time periods: 1) a mailer with a call to register to vote that occupies a large amount of space on the mailer and 2) a GOTV mailer that simply states “Vote on Election Day!” Would either mailer qualify for the exemption?
No. An exhortation to register to vote that occupies a large amount of space on a mailer would not qualify for the exception because the exhortation would not be brief. Also, a message that simply states “Vote on Election Day!” without any other text is not incidental and would not qualify for the exemption. Remember, to qualify for the exemption, the exhortation must be brief and incidental.
Our state party committee posts voter registration forms on our website for downloading. Is this considered FEA?
No. In addition to the FEA exceptions listed in 100.24(c), the following activities by a state or local party committee are not considered FEA under the revised regulations:
Where can I get more information about FEA?
For more information about the revisions discussed in this article, please see the Final Rules on the Definition of Federal Election Activity, 75 FR 55257 (Sept 10, 2010). The Campaign Guide for Political Party Committees [PDF] also provides detailed information about FEA as well as instructions for reporting FEA. All of the FEA time periods for each state are available on the FEC’s website at www.fec.gov/info/ElectionDate. For further information, please contact the FEC’s Information Division at 1-800-424-9530 (press 6) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Posted 9/27/2012; By: Zainab Smith)
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