Encouraging the participation of sportsmen and women in the political process is critical to ensuring the preservation of our outdoor heritage. Facilitating voter registration for sportsmen and women at the time they purchase their hunting, angling, and trapping licenses is one way to encourage the voice of sportsmen and women to be heard in the legislative process.
Encouraging sportsmen’s involvement in the political process is an important method for protecting our outdoor heritage. Increased public participation, particularly at the ballot box, ensures that hunters and anglers are represented, which strengthens the ability of the sportsmen’s community to collectively defeat anti-sportsmen policy objectives. Facilitating voter registration for sportsmen and women at the time they purchase hunting and fishing licenses is one way to increase the number of sportsmen that are registered to vote.
The issue was introduced at the inaugural NASC Annual Meeting in 2004 by a Georgia legislator and was presented as a NASC issue brief during the 2005 legislative sessions. Since that time, sportsmen’s caucuses in Florida and Virginia have passed similar legislation and attempts have been made in at least eight other states. Georgia, despite passing voter registration legislation in 2004, has yet to implement a voter/sportsmen registration system.
- In January 2013, voter registration bill S 2801 was introduced in New York. S 2801 passed the Senate on June 3, 2013 and was later introduced to the Assembly as A 4903, though it subsequently died in committee. In February of 2016 voter registration bill A 4982 was introduced but failed to make it out of committee.
- Kentucky voter registration bill S 220 was introduced and subsequently passed the Senate in March, 2014, but failed to pass the House.
- Legislation related to voter registration in New Jersey was introduced in January of 2016, but bill A 1387 failed after passing out of committee.
- “Sportsmen/Voter” legislation is based on the “Motor/Voter” concept, which has gained traction throughout the nation to provide another pathway for citizens to register to participate in the democratic process.
The following states have successfully passed and enacted voter registration legislation using the language below:
- Georgia Title 21, chapter 2, article 6, § 21-2-221.1: “Each application to obtain a resident hunting, fishing, or trapping license issued by the Department of Natural Resources pursuant to Chapter 2 of Title 27 and made by an applicant who is within six months of such applicant's eighteenth birthday or older shall also serve as an application for voter registration unless the applicant declines to register to vote through specific declination or by failing to sign the voter registration application.”
- Florida Title 28, chapter 379, part 6, § 379.352: “At each location where hunting, fishing, or trapping licenses or permits are sold, voter registration applications shall be displayed and made available to the public. Subagents shall ask each person who applies for a hunting, fishing, or trapping license or permit if he or she would like a voter registration application and may provide such application to the license or permit applicant but shall not assist such persons with voter registration applications or collect complete or incomplete voter registration applications.”
- Virginia Title 24.2, chapter 4, § 24.2-416.3: “The State Board shall provide a reasonable number of mail voter registration application forms to each agent of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries authorized to sell hunting or fishing licenses in Virginia. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall assist the State Board by providing a list of its agents appointed to sell hunting and fishing licenses in Virginia and by instructing its agents to make the mail voter registration application forms available to persons purchasing hunting or fishing licenses.”
To ensure the voice of sportsmen and women across the country is protected and well represented in policy making decisions, legislators and elected officials should explore and support opportunities to adopt similar legislation in their states. Each caucus leadership team should determine the best means of action in their respective state and become familiar with similar legislation considered elsewhere. Please reference the laws mentioned above for additional information about components of the legislation that give these voter registration instruments added flexibility.
For more information regarding this issue, please contact Zachary Sheldon at email@example.com.
- New Jersey A 1387
- Maryland H 1008
- New York A 4982
- Kentucky S 220
- New Jersey S 356
- New York S 2801
- New York SB 6351
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