This piece was originally published on the California Forward blog.
Fasten your seatbelts and place your seatbacks and tray tables in their full upright, and locked position…and prepare to register to vote.
Two weeks ago Virgin America, the only California-based airline company, launched an initiative to register passengers at 35,000 feet through their back-of-the-seat entertainment systems. In-flight voter registration on all of Virgin America’s roughly 1,000 daily flights is just one of many recent innovative projects developed by Rock the Vote in their effort to register 1.5 million young Americans by November 6, 2012.
Rock the Vote (RTV), a 21 year old non-partisan voter registration organization, is dedicated to building the political power of young people by engaging them in the electoral process through the use of new technologies, music, and pop culture.
Millennials are the fastest growing, most diverse generation in our nation’s history, accounting for nearly one quarter of the electorate nationwide, outnumbering seniors this November. By 2016 this group of young people is predicted to make up nearly 33% of all actual voters.
“In four years these young people will make up a real majority of the electorate. We want to put the power in their hands now, as well as educate them,” said Amanda Brown, Deputy Director of Rock the Vote. “Research shows that registering and engaging young people helps create voting habits early which yields lifelong voting.”
The 2012 election is one of critical importance to Millennials in California, who tend to have weak voter turnout. A View Point Leaning survey conducted earlier this year found that 56% of 18-29 year old Californians believe that the high cost of a college education has been a major obstacle to achieving their goals. If the Governor’s tax hike fails this November, the UC system, whose budget has already been severely cut, stands to lose another $375 million in state funding over the next two years.
Although the 2008 election saw a historic increase in voter turnout among Millennials, less than half of young people 18-24 showed up at the polls nationwide. This is where Rock the Vote’s innovative voter registration programs play a huge role. Traditional campus-based ‘get out the vote’ drives, although effective, leave large communities of young people relatively untouched.
Through the Spin the Vote program, RTV, in partnership with Insomniac Events, is targeting a whole new community that has been largely untapped politically. By providing on-site voter registration at every Insomniac music festival in 2012, Spin the Vote, which kicked off the festival season at Beyond Wonderland in San Bernardino, is helping electronic dance music fans have a voice in the 2012 election. Not only can fans register to vote while fist pumping, but inspirational videos and voice messages from prominent artists, like Diplo and Paul Van Dyk, encouraging fans to stay engaged are being released all season long.
“Research shows that all it takes to engage young people is making the ask,” said Brown, commenting on RTV’s more diverse targeting of new communities.
Earlier this month, RTV also announced it is again teaming up with Microsoft to engage the gaming community by providing in-game voter registration on Xbox LIVE’s Election 2012 Hub. “Voter registration efforts need to reach young people while they are doing things they regularly do, whether that be attending an electronic dance music festival, flying across the country, or playing XBOX,” said Brown. “We need to make voter registration easier and more accessible to get more young people engaged.”
Rock the Vote is constantly trying to find innovative ways to mobilize and empower young people to ensure they have a say in the important decisions that affect their lives. By leveraging new technologies and identifying key validators for different constituencies, RTV has not only successfully registered over 5 million young people to vote but also become a trusted source of elections information.
In a state that has more eligible voters under the age of 30 than the entire number of voters who showed up to the polls for this year’s presidential primary, we welcome all efforts designed to increase civic participation.
California Forward understands that in order to have a truly vibrant and representative democracy, we must convince more Californians, particularly Millennials, to register and vote. Persistent low voter turnout among young people increases the incentive for politicians to continue to ignore the needs of this ever-growing segment of the electorate so critical to the future California. The more Californians who are engaged, the faster the state gets on the road to recovery.