American as American pie / jenn

 March 23, 2016; Mic

Thanks to non-stop media coverage and political venting deluging nearly every social media feed, it’s practically impossible to escape the chatter surrounding the presidential campaign. Although it seems this election cycle has left the general public nothing less than transfixed, there is a nationwide effort to ensure that voters hold their attention all the way to the polls come November 8th.

Democracy Works, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, has teamed up with online millennial news magazine Mic and several other partners to launch the TurboVote Challenge. The online awareness campaign aims to grow voter participation to 80 percent by 2020, a level of civic engagement our country hasn’t seen for more than a century. Using online and mobile platforms, the coalition of heavy hitters, including AirBnB, Starbucks, and Spotify, will support Democracy Works’ efforts to heighten awareness, promote voter registration and improve the overall voter experience.

While other larger organizations, like Rock the Vote, have been driving young people to the polls since the early 1990s, Democracy Works and projects like TurboVote place specific emphasis on clarifying unclear voter information and simplifying the sometimes-confusing process of casting a ballot. The founder of Democracy Works, a former Harvard graduate student whose frustration over missing several elections while away from home served as the impetus for the organization’s creation, hopes that TurboVote will help disentangle the messiness of the democratic process. Recognizing the need to “make voting easy,” the application disseminates easy-to-digest information such as key voting dates and polling locations, striving to get more people to show up on Election Day.

The goal to increase voter turnout by five percent over the next four years is an ambitious one. Voting among the millennial population in particular is dismal, hitting all-time lows in recent elections. In 2008, during what was undoubtedly a momentous election year, participation peaked as 52 percent of young voters made their voices heard. In the subsequent general election in 2012, voter participation among those 18 to 29 sank to 45 percent. During the 2014 election, a meager 17 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted, compared with 59 percent of voters 65 and older, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Despite their noticeable absence from the polls, millennials are actively participating in national conversations about bedrock issues taking the stage during this election year, including the economy, climate change, foreign policy, and closing the gender gap. In a January 2016 USA Today/Rock the Vote Millennial Poll, millennials surveyed seemed to agree on most issues and also tended not to side with any particular political party. The lack of millennial representation at the polls has been attributed to several factors, namely the disconnect between their stance on certain issues and the position for which frontrunner candidates advocate. But the millennial generation is taking matters into its own hands, leading the charge in social entrepreneurship efforts and creating its own solutions to address local, national and global inadequacies.

Whether the spectacle of this year’s presidential election will result in record voter turnout come November is yet to be seen. But with get-out-the-vote efforts like the TurboVote Challenge, many voters—both young and old—have more resources on their side to help them navigate our country’s muddy democratic waters.—Lindsay Walker