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Three Reasons Behind National Voter Registration Day's Off-Year Success

Friday, October 4, 2019   (0 Comments)
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By Ernie Smith | October 3, 2019

In most states, 2019 is not an election year. But the annual, nonprofit-run National Voter Registration Day still got more than 400,000 people to register last month. Here are the secrets to the campaign’s success.

Each September 24 since 2012, National Voter Registration Day has aimed to get as many people as possible signed up to go to the polls later in the fall. That job is a lot easier in even-numbered years.

But this year, even with no presidential or congressional elections on the ballot, the campaign—formally endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State, National Association of Election Officials, and National Association of State Election Directors—well outpaced its usual off-year totals, registering more than 400,000 people to vote.

What was the secret behind such a big tally? Three things:

Celebrity endorsements on social media. A lot of big names were taking part to support the bipartisan initiative last week, including Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Leann Rimes. Major political figures on both sides of the aisle, including Michelle Obama and Newt Gingrich, also got involved. The campaign topped Twitter’s trending topics and helped generate nearly 100,000 tweets, many with a celebrity face attached.

A huge number of partnerships. The event has high-profile partnerships with a large number of organizations, including nonprofits such as the Democracy Fund and National Council of Nonprofits; media giants such as BET Networks, MTV, and CMT; and large companies such as Postmates, Pandora, and Reddit. This year, the initiative was financially sponsored by (among others) Facebook, Google, Viacom, the Democracy Fund, and the Creative Artists Agency.

A focus on the grassroots. While big organizations may make their mark on the big day, the real action was happening at the grassroots, with community events helping to drive voter registration last week. Supporters in Madison, Wisconsin, arranged pop-up registration locations, and in Chicago, events were held at local high schools. Atlanta, meanwhile, put up registration booths in the city’s main downtown transit hub.

Lindsay Torrico, a member of the National Voter Registration Day steering committee, is optimistic that this year’s success signals a bigger trend.

“We are encouraged by the level of engagement this local election year,” Torrico, the United Way’s senior director of policy and advocacy, said in a news release. “We are hopeful that this year’s success is a preview of what’s to come in 2020.”

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