No matter who wins in the upcoming general election, it seems that Flathead County has already won, or at least improved, by one measure: voter registration. While voter registration is down drastically in Montana (a whopping 75,000-plus voters were dropped from the Montana rolls since the 2000 election according to the secretary of state’s office), registration is actually up in Flathead County. According to the Flathead County Elections Office, 44,878 county residents are registered to vote, more than 3,000 more than the Flathead had registered in the 2000 general election.
Notably, almost 10 percent of new registered voters in the Flathead joined the ranks of the civically engaged as a result of the efforts of one campaign—that of Senate District 2 democratic candidate Dan Weinberg. Weinberg’s campaign has registered more than 300 new voters, most of them young people.
Gayle Weinberg, Dan’s wife, has accompanied her candidate husband over the past several months to many popular local hangouts where youths congregate. She says that, “Obviously, we didn’t only register Democrats,” even though that is her husband’s party. Aside from Weinberg campaign literature, the couple passed out fliers with sloagans such as, “If you don’t like the people your parents elected, register to vote.” Apparently, it worked.
Weinberg campaign manager Melissa Adrett registered people during the lunch rush at Whitefish’s Wrap and Roll burrito shop, among other locations, but for Adrett, cracking the 300 mark isn’t enough.
“I would’ve liked to have gotten more, but I guess I’m just a perfectionist,” she says.
In reaching out to new voters, Dan Weinberg even sang James Taylor’s alternative transportation anthem “Traffic Jam” during one open mic night at the Great Northern in Whitefish. It’s not immediately apparent what, if any, effect that had.
“It was a little embarassing,” Adrett admits, laughing. “But we were trying to reach out.”
“Some young people didn’t know how to register,” Dan Weinberg says. “Some are just procrastinators, or apathetic. But it’s important to get young people involved, because it’s their future.”