Seth Flaxman, on the Future Of Voting

Amy Clark
Amy Clark
Aug 23 · 3 min read

Hi, I’m Seth, creator of: A modern voting experience via Democracy Works— voters should have personalized outreach that helps them register and vote in every election.

Home base: Brooklyn — my family is 7th generation New Yorkers.

10 years ago, I said: Expanding voter participation will be my whole life’s work; it will take a full career to see progress.

Now, I say: We can see enormous increases within a decade or less — and it’s also true that the challenge is more complex than I imagined and requires more than tech to solve.

Surprising facts: 1) Voter participation jumped around 14 points from 2014 to 2018. That’s historic. It shows that large jumps are possible even within a four-year period. 2) We saw the highest participation among young voters in a generation — with the overall increase in midterm turnout led by a 16 point jump in participation from voters ages 18–29. 3) According to the U.S. Census survey of nonvoters (yes, the Census asks about this), a collection of process problems are a bigger hurdle than voter apathy. This is actually hopeful. Process is easier to fix and we’re making progress. 4) Companies are taking voter engagement seriously, more than ever before.

Promising innovations & trends: Automatic voter registration and Vote at Home options — as in, all registered voters are automatically mailed ballots — are both trending nationally. Both can improve security and access while reducing costs, and there’s still room for bipartisan coalitions in this space. Take Colorado: it now combines all the best innovations, including same-day registration and vote centers that let you vote at any polling place — and it had the second highest turnout in the country, beating the national average by 12 points.

Action all voters can take: Adopt an institution or community and help that whole community vote. This could be your college, high school, sports team, faith community, neighborhood association, workplace. We want to see 80% of all eligible voters participating — in other words, a 20 point increase in turnout across all elections. That’s doable. And necessary. Our shared challenge: how do we create a culture of voting? Our free toolkit (college focus) is one resource.

A turning point for me: Prop 8 in 2008. It was a wake-up call that our democracy needed work. That’s when I started thinking about what I could do for democracy.

What I tell young people: You’ve got this. Keep it up. There’s so much leadership coming from your generation — we want to recognize and support it.

On my bookshelf: Science fiction and history, especially myth busting history. Right now I’m reading The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present, which reframes the story of Native America to one of resiliency and resourcefulness.

A changemaker who inspires me: Jennifer Pahlka, a fellow Ashoka Fellow— I was at the conference where she announced Code for America. People jumped to their feet with a standing applause. Ten years on, I still find her vision inspiring.

I’m tagging: Jen Pahlka, on fundamentally rethinking how citizens interact with government in the digital age.

Seth joined Ashoka in 2013 — read more here. You can follow him on Twitter at @SethFlaxman and @demworksinc

Want more insights from leading changemakers? Check in every Friday for a new #FutureOf.

A New Game

Ideas for a world in which everyone contributes

Amy Clark

Written by

Amy Clark

A New Game

Ideas for a world in which everyone contributes

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