How to Find & Mobilize Young Voters
I: Voter Registration
Rock The Vote
Registration is the best get-out-the-vote tactic around: in 2004, 82% of registered 18-29 year olds voted. (18)
If you’re in a tight race and need a way to create more votes, register young adults. It’s cost-effective and it works.
• Online, you can register a new young voter for $2-10 per registration application. (19)
• By direct mail, you can generate a new registration application for $5-7 per person. (20)
• In person – on campus and at events – volunteers can generate new registrations at very little cost and paid staff can for $8-15 per registration.(21)
• Bonus tip: Registration builds lists. By registering voters you can ID new supporters and collect contact info that will be crucial to running persuasion, education, or GOTV efforts. REGISTRATION TACTICS THAT WORK
The rule of thumb for voter registration is to go where young people spend their time – at home, at school, online, or in communities – and ask them to register to vote. Online (22)
More than 80% of 18-29 year olds are online regularly. With a few simple techniques you can register large numbers of young adults online for relatively little cost. Here are a few ways to do this: YOUR WEBSITE
Your first step should be to put Rock the Vote’s online voter registration tool on your website, blog, and social network pages. It’s free and easy. You can sign up for your own “widget” at www. RocktheVote.com/partners and start registering voters online right away.
The best news - you collect the contact information of anyone who uses the widget to register to vote on your website - an instant GOTV or volunteer outreach list. Tips for online registration:
• Promote It:
Promoting registration on your site is key – email your lists, place the “Register to Vote” button in a prominent location, post voter registration updates and deadlines in your “Latest News” section or on your blog, or challenge your friends and colleagues to a registration contest.
• Timing Matters:
Promote registration prominently on your website as deadlines approach.
• Make it Visible:
Put the button on your front page or blog, and regularly promote it in your “Latest News” section so that visitors are reminded to register.
Email your list as deadlines approach and plug registration on your website when doing TV or radio or speaking at events. Make sure to include a “Register your Friends” link.
• High-Traffic Sites:
The online voter registration tool can also be posted to blogs, MySpace profiles, and Facebook fan pages. If you have these (and you should), put the widget up there and message your “friends” as deadlines approach. SOCIAL NETWORKS
Millions of young voters spend a lot of time on social networks – MySpace, Facebook, MiGente, BlackPlanet and more. Make sure to set up a profile on the key networks – ask your young staff and volunteers which ones (or contact Rock the Vote) – and designate one of those younger staff members to make sure the site is constantly updated and integrated with your campaign’s overall online organizing strategy.
Post a link to your website’s voter registration from all of these sites (or put a widget on there, too) and make sure your profile or page is highlighting upcoming registration deadlines, campaign events, and more. ONLINE ADVERTISING
• Internet Ads:
For $2-10 per registration, you can places ads on youth-oriented websites and generate registrations that way.(23)
Figure out which websites are most heavily visited by your target demographic (for instance, ESPN. com for men, People.com for women) and place a “Register to Vote today” ad that links back to your website.
• Search Advertising:
With Google, MSN, or Yahoo search advertising you can advertise your campaign website and generate registrations for less than $5 each.(24)
With geographic targeting you can opt to only show your ads in the states, cities, or zip codes that are most important to your campaign. Advertise on search phrases like “register to vote,” “voting information,” “elections,” or your candidate’s name.
• Facebook Advertising:
With simple text and image ads you can register young voters on Facebook for $5 - $10.(25)
You can choose to show the ads in the states, cities, or even colleges you are targeting, as well as by demographic characteristics, and you only pay when people click the ad. Find out more at http://www.facebook.com/ads Events & Community Hubs
Work with 2-3 keyed-in young people on your campaign to map out where to find the most young people for event or site-based registration. Brainstorm out the places where young adults hang out in the area and put together a plan to hit them with volunteers and clipboards.
Bars, clubs, coffee shops, theaters, social services offices, transit centers, houses of worship, barber shops, and city parks are all great places to find young adults.
Fairs, festivals, concerts, outdoor movies, and other events tend to draw a lot of young adults.
At big events or high traffic sites, one volunteer can register about five 18-29 year-old voters per hour. For example, if 2 volunteers registered voters at an event for 3 hours, they would register about 30 voters. If they registered voters at five events or concerts, they could register 150 voters.
College campuses are the best places to find a lot of young people. Working with student volunteers, there are many opportunities to register young voters on campus:
• Class and group presentations:
Student groups and large classes are great places to register new voters. Work with volunteers on campus to set up these presentations. You can expect to register about 15% of each class.
Get a few volunteers, grab some clipboards, and ask passersby in high-traffic areas to register to vote. Volunteers can expect to register about 5 people per hour. Events: hold an event on campus – bring the candidate, posters, volunteers and music – and register the crowd. Each volunteer can expect to register 4-5 people per hour. Dorm storms: Volunteers can go door-todoor in dorms and generate from 5-10 registrations per hour. Keep in mind that not all colleges look the same. class presentations are the best tactic to use at two-year and commuter schools, where students usually don’t live in dorms or hang out on campus during the day. On four-year campuses, tabling, dorm storms, and events work well, as do class presentations. BONUS TIP
While registering voters, be sure to collect cell numbers and emails so you can add them to your phonebank and email lists. And ask if they would like to receive text messages from your campaign – if they say yes, you can text them with GOTV reminders. Direct Mail
Despite what you might assume, direct mail is a very effective way to register young adults to vote.HOW TO
Buy or build a list of 18-29 year olds’ addresses. Make sure your mail vendor performs a change-of-address update before sending the mail – young people move a lot. Creative:
the mail piece should indicate clearly it is a voter registration form, contain a state-specific application on the inside, and have a pre-printed return address. Follow up:
If you have emails for your mail recipients, a reminder note can increase return rates. TIP: TIMING MATTERS
Upcoming voter registration deadlines, new school semesters, and 18th birthdays are all good times to remind a person to register to vote. Out of all those, though, deadlines are the best motivator – make sure to do a big push before your state’s deadline. TARGETING
Demographics: Mail is very useful if you want to target specific demographics. consumer data contains all sorts of information on race, gender, political leanings, and more. Movers:
Mail is an excellent tool for reregistration. Match voter files or membership lists to a change of address database and send a registration form to movers - they may have forgotten to re-register at their new address. New Voters:
Tests by Women’s Voices. Women Vote. have had great success registering young women around their 18th birthdays with “birthday card” registration mailers. COSTS AND RATES
• RTV’s 2007 test found that direct mail can generate a completed registration for $5-7 per application.
• Six percent of those mailed a form completed the application in Rock the Vote’s 2007 test; eight percent returned the registration form when also sent an email reminder.
Rock the Vote found that nonpartisan, “official-looking” direct mail pieces have the best rates of return. See below: Footnotes:(18) U.S. census Bureau, current Population Survey, Voting and Registration Supplement November 2004.
(19) Rock the Vote online registration test results.
(20) Results from Rock the Vote re-registration direct mail experiments, 2007-2008, conducted by MShc Partners.
(21) Estimates based on field experiences of youth vote organizations. cost depends on staff wages.
(22) “Winning Young Voters - New Media tactics I,” forthcoming from Rock the Vote, spring 2008.
(23) “Winning Young Voters - New Media tactics I,” forthcoming from Rock the Vote, spring 2008.