Any household move comes with a mile-long to-do list. Even with the best intentions, between the packing and contacting the utility companies, it’s easy to let the not-as-urgent items fall by the wayside. In a special initiative this year, building on a longstanding program, the 5,800-member Mississippi Association of REALTORS® (MAR) is taking care of one important task that clients might otherwise overlook in a move—voter registration.
Given the association’s strong culture of advocacy, and the grassroots spirit of its members, this energetic outreach is only natural, says Lisa Hollister, MAR’s 2016 President. She credits Ellen Short, MAR’s President back in 2003, with spearheading the association’s Move the Vote initiative. “REALTORS® are the ones in the trenches, out in the community, and at every closing,” she says. “Ellen and her team recognized this great opportunity to secure the registration of incoming community members, and also of those voters who were just moving across town.” Joining forces with the Secretary of State and the State Auditor, they created the Move the Vote program, which involved getting forms approved by the legislature, making them available to the MAR membership, and encouraging all agents to fill them out and bring them to every closing, whether they were representing the buyer or the seller. The agent also takes responsibility for mailing the forms, the critical final step that could easily fall through the cracks during a household move.
In 2015, responding to the adoption of NAR’s Core Standards, MAR sent voter registration kits to all its local boards, many of which took to the streets in their communities, setting up registration booths outside grocery stores, big box stores and in shopping malls; one even had a table at a community 5K running event.
President Hollister has made voter registration an integral component of her own initiative this year: “R.S.V.P.” invites all members to join in the efforts of the REALTOR® Party, by Registering, Supporting, Voting and Participating. “We’re taking a very pro-active stance on voter registration,” she says. In fact, Hollister has personally visited each of Mississippi’s 21 local boards to promote the R.S.V.P. initiative; even though the voter registration forms and an up-to-date roster of circuit clerks are available on a dedicated page of the MAR website, she urges offices to print out 100 copies of the materials and place them next to their closing folders. “It’s all about making the process easier,” she says, “for our members, as well as our clients.”
In addition to her tour of the state, Hollister has led MAR in hosting a series of voter registration drives at various board meetings so far this year. At three separate events, more than 500 MAR members have had the opportunity to pick up materials for themselves and their clients at tables staffed by the MAR Grassroots Advocacy Task Force.
Beth Hansen, MAR’s Chief Executive Officer, adds, “Many of our local boards are sponsoring Voter Registration promotions, and we are all making an especially hard push in September, through email blasts and social networking, in advance of the October 8 registration deadline for the upcoming election season.”
“Our members have been completely receptive to the Move the Vote program for many years, and Lisa is really elevating the effort,” continues Hansen. “REALTORS® love to help out,” she notes, “and this is just one more way to be of service to clients: not just by checking a task off their lists, but by involving them in the civic activity of their new neighborhoods.” The benefits are far-reaching, she adds. “Increasing the voting base helps any given jurisdiction, and all these efforts have also helped MAR to build and maintain strong relationships with elected officials, who recognize and appreciate our civic-mindedness.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Mississippi are moving the vote, visit http://msrealtors.org/Member_Services/MoveTheVote.php; or contact Mississippi REALTORS® 2016 President Lisa Hollister at firstname.lastname@example.org or 228-623-0746; or Beth Hansen, MAR’s Chief Executive Officer, at email@example.com or 601-932-5241.