Rock the Vote, the nonprofit group focused on engaging young voters, is kicking off a joint effort with PromoJam, a Los Angeles-based social media promotions startup, with the goal of registering 1.5 million new voters for this fall’s presidential race - and challenging restrictions on voter registration.
The mobile-focused campaign, which starts today, will enable anyone with a smartphone to fill out an entire voter registration form directly from their device. At the same time, that new voter can email themselves a copy of their registration, then print it out, sign it and send it to their local elections office.
In addition to boosting political participation among young people - especially the 18-24 age group - the joint effort will serve another purpose. Both Rock the Vote and PromoJam view it as a shot across the bow at the current limitations of voter registration (online registration is currently allowed now in only 10 states, for example), as well as laws around the country clamping down on how people register to vote.
The handling of voter rolls is a hot topic right now. The U.S. Justice Department filed suit this week against the state of Florida over its plan to purge voter rolls - a no-no within three months of an election (and Florida has a primary vote coming up in August).
“We hope this year causes such a ruckus, because our goal is to change the way voter registration works in America,” Amanda MacNaughton, co-founder of PromoJam, told ReadWriteWeb.
MacNaughton pointed to “19th-century” systems and processes for registration across the country, as well as how tethered young consumers and voters have become to their phones, as motivations for the effort.
“We thought, OK, you want to make it harder for people to register? Well, we’ll take this effort to the sky,” she said. “We’ll create voter registration on the phone and take it to young people on the device where they use it the most.”
The campaign had a test run of sorts at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, this year, debuting a “scan-to-vote” T-shirt encouraging youth voter registration on the fly. The shirt - emblazoned with a QR code, was developed in collaboration with Junk Food Clothing, Threads for Thought, Rock the Vote, RedLaser and PromoJam.
PromoJam mobile page with educational videos about the election, Facebook “like” buttons and the ability to register to vote. The shirts are available at Whole Foods stores around the country, as well as online.Users could scan a QR code on the T-shirt to launch a
Why the emphasis on mobile? “We know young people in the U.S. rely on smartphones to access information and to make their lives easier,” said RedLaser general manager and eBay mobile senior director Rob Veres (RedLaser was recently acquired by eBay). “Through our partnership with Rock the Vote, we want to enable them to take action in the elections this year using a channel they prefer."
Today, PromoJam and Rock the Vote are launching the official “Scan-To-Vote Control Room” website, a kind of central base for the voter registration drive. From there, voters can use their smartphone to register to vote, share social updates across multiple networks, download an action kit, buy the campaign’s official T-shirt and more.
Chrissy Faessen, Rock the Vote vice president of marketing, said the organization registered 2.2 million young people to vote in the 2008 election cycle. “In 2008, we really started to build our mobile list, and it really seemed appropriate to figure out what more mobile could do for us,” she said.