When Election Results are Serious, Make Voting Into a Game

Millennials, you and your friends will decide today’s election. Pew Research Center’s report The Generation Gap in American Politics shows that low turnout among millennials (voters currently in their early 20s to late 30s) distorts the shape of the electorate. In the 2014 midterms, millennials and Gen X made up more than half of those eligible to vote — but cast millions fewer votes than older generations. This has a decisive impact on our politics.

However, young people have tuned into today’s election with unusual intensity. The Pew report notes:

Millennials’ early interest in this year’s midterms is greater than for the past two congressional elections. This year, 62% of millennial registered voters say they are looking forward to the midterms; at similar points in 2014 and 2010, fewer millennials said they were looking forward to the elections (46% in 2014, 39% in 2010).

Will this interest translate into votes?

Jessica Riegel, Rachel Konowitz, and Emily Graham, co-founders of Motivote, seek to prove that it can. As they test new tools for raising turnout, they aim to make younger voters a decisive force in 2020 and beyond.

Millennials are the first generation of “digital natives.” They grew up navigating life using mobile apps. Motivote aims to use this fact to change electoral dynamics for a generation. As CEO Riegel says:

Traditional get-out-the-vote tools have remained essentially the same for a century. Phone-banking and canvassing, long considered the “gold standard” for stimulating turnout, often fail to reach young voters. Motivote belongs to a new generation of voter engagement and mobilization platforms that meet voters where they are.

The platforms may be new, Riegel emphasizes — but the methods have proved effective:

We’re leveraging proven techniques that have helped young people do everything from save for retirement to exercise more regularly — and we’re applying these techniques to civic engagement. Rewards, “nudges” and team-based competition may be novel approaches to voter engagement, but they are essential for millennials.

What about your friends in swing states? Using another mobile app, VoteWithMe, you can text reminders to swing state voters in your contact list. Such reminders can have many times the impact messages from strangers have, when it comes to following through on the intention to vote.

Why is young voter turnout so decisive? The Republican Party is in a fight for its life against the demographics of the American electorate. Millennials overwhelmingly disapprove of the Trump regime:

Just 27% of millennials approve of Trump’s job performance, while 65% disapprove, according to Pew Research Center surveys conducted in Trump’s first year as president. Among Gen Xers, 36% approve and 57% disapprove.

As it turns out, millennials oppose the party in power in no small part because they are more diverse than older Americans. According to the American Political Science Association’s report Millennials and Race in the 2016 Election:

… disaggregating the 18–30 age group by race as this study [does] suggests that the Democratic preferences displayed by millennials in the aggregate are largely driven by the cohort’s racial and ethnic diversity.

After the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report concluded that the party must to appeal to an increasingly diverse America, or lose influence. Instead today, Republicans have chosen to resist changing demographics, through voter suppression efforts unheard of since Reconstruction and immigration bars so extreme as to challenge birthright citizenship. In 2013, the conclusion was in effect: “if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em.” Today it is: “if you can’t beat ’em, keep them out of the electorate.”

The diverse millennial generation wants none of this, but will digital natives find innovate ways to exercise their electoral power, and turn aircraft America back from the destination to which it has been diverted? To find your polling place, use this form.