Matt Singer noticed a huge problem when looking at voting data from 2008.
“Six million Americans missed the election because they did not register to vote or they missed the deadline in their state,” he recently told Business Insider. “That was an ‘ah ha’ moment for us.”
Singer, along with a few partners, wanted to come up with a plan for how to increase voter registration and voter turnout. They wanted to figure out a way to utilise “the biggest megaphone’s in America” to remind people to register.
That sprung the idea for National Voter Registration Day — which is taking place Tuesday.
“Why don’t we just ask everyone to celebrate one day with us?” he said. “Almost everyone does something for Earth Day, why don’t we do something for national voter registration day.”
“Why don’t we start something that no one really owns,” he said the thinking was among the group.
Now, for 2016’s rendition, his group is partnering with 3,600 organisations, including Twitter, Tumblr, and Starbucks, to help get potential voters registered. Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced 1,400 events across the country as a part of the initiative. Business Insider reached out to Donald Trump’s campaign to see if they were holding any events, but representatives did not immediately respond.
“In 2012, we registered 303,000 people to vote,” Singer said. “The day has a lot more partners, a lot more excitement, a lot more energy this year, so we’re optimistic.”
Liba Rubenstein, the director of social impact and public policy at Tumblr, said the effort is particularly important for them as a partner, because of the “disproportionate portion of our audience” that “is millennial.”
Tumblr drove 100,000 registrations in 2012 and 30,000 during the 2014 midterms during the past two National Voter Registration Days. Tuesday, Tumblr will link logged-in users in the US directly to the National Voter Registration Day home page, utilising a large portion of the right side of the Tumblr dashboard.
The site will also give blog owners an option to steer all of their web visitors to the registration page.
“They’re quite hard to reach through traditional media,” Rubenstein said. “We have an audience that is really engaged on issues, but, again, kind of hard to reach. As we all know, registering to vote is very much an analogue process in a lot of states. It takes multiple steps. It’s very complicated.”
“The primary reason we do this is because voter participation is the primary way to influence democracy,” she said.
Tumblr’s users are part of the core audience Singer is trying to attract to register on Tuesday — 18-to 21-year-olds who will be voting in their first presidential election.
Singer said an interesting fact about the group is that they’re “the most political young cohort we’ve had since we started measuring that stuff.”
“But a lot of those measures are around interest and issues, direct action, protests, and taking part in discussions with their friends,” he said. “I think we’ve got a big question, as always, as how does that translate into participation in elections and government.”
“That’s also why we think this sort of event is so crucial,” Singer continued. “A big reason why people don’t take part in elections is because they don’t know how. And this is the type of event where it doesn’t matter if you’re a Clinton supporter, a Trump supporter, a Johnson supporter, a Stein supporter, a none-of-the-above supporter, we’re working with big companies, small companies, Democrats, Republicans, Independents…This is a day for all eligible voters.”
Virginia Bergin, director of Global Responsibility for Starbucks, said the company is partnering with Democracy Works and utilising “TurboVote,” a service provided by the organisation, to help steer voters to get registered.
“By 2020 could we get 80% of Americans voting?” Bergin asked of the larger goal. Voter turnout tends to hover around 60% in presidential election years.
“This is not about this election, this is about every election,” she added.
In lower-level elections, such as those on the local and state levels that take place in non-presidential years or prior to November, turnout numbers are dismal.
“We actually would love to see … the level of participation raised across all elections in places where the turnout is under 20% right now,” said Seth Flaxman, co-founder and executive director of Democracy Works. “I think that is really critical. It’s almost crisis levels of participation.”
“These are as important or sometimes more important in how you shape the world,” he added. “Primary elections in, for Congress or Senate often times determines who will actually be in Congress or the Senate more than the general elections.”