It Takes a Friend to Get a Friend to Vote

Political organizers have at their hands a timeless way to get young people to cast ballots: Link them with friends who will do the same. Now there are apps to help.

Comments: 58

  1. Hundreds of nonpartisan, bipartisan and partisan studies have been done on how to win campaigns and influence people, looking at everything from the cost per vote of robo-calls to how to craft the perfect email subject line. But the most effective message is face-to-face and one-on-one, says Green, who, along with colleague Alan Gerber of Yale University, wrote the book, "Get out the Vote: How to increase voter turnout."

  2. @USNA73 "Get out the Vote: How to increase voter turnout." Simple enough. Give us someone/something to vote for. Not just against. It shouldn't be rocket science.

  3. Excellent article on a fascinating topic. Tools that help educate voters and create conversations are critical for our democracy moving forward.

  4. Spoken like a true partisan -- increase voter turnout if it supports your candidate. Would you mind if we increase voter turnout for your political opponents? A democracy is meant to represent all voices, not just the Democratic party. We should be discouraging political participation, not encouraging it. The "five minutes with the average voter" quote comes to mind. There are so many statistics that prove the ignorance of the average voter when it comes to politics -- don't even begin to contemplate the ignorance of the average non-voter. On the other hand, instead of discouraging participation, we could remove any conceivable barrier to political participation and choose our leaders through sortition like the Greeks did. At least it would be a fair democracy representing all voices instead of the sham democracy in which the rich and partisans, such as the author of this column, participate in to the detriment of other citizens.

  5. @Aaron How about every citizen automatically gets registers to vote. No obstacles should ever be in place. No polling place more than a couple miles from home, voting over the course of at least a week, and election day as a national holiday. A completely bipartisan solution everyone should be happy with, would you agree?

  6. @Aaron "We should be discouraging political participation, not encouraging it." Finally a Republican indicating what the Republican party is truly about. Stealing elections. Republicans look on democracy as a way to have power but no accountability. We get blamed for their treachery..."well you elected him..."

  7. @David I'm not a Republican or anything to the right of socialism.

  8. As a technologist** I am appalled at how little we, as citizens, have used digital tools to engage for political action. Yes, there are notable exceptions, like the Women's March that followed Trump's swearing into office, but they are often one off deals that come and go in a flash. We have enormous social power and, together, incredible financial power but we often sit on the sidelines, making comments and little else. The high school kids from Parkland in Florida are doing more than most people. When the internet was firing up and people were discovering its potentials, I foolishly thought citizens would harness these new opportunities quickly and make good use of them. Instead, we have allowed public forums to be the primary place for cat videos while hatred and violence promotion have poured in like springtime flood waters. We have the power to overwhelm the massive contributions of billionaires by bringing together millions of regular online donations. This is happening to some degree for specific candidates, but not enough in general. Likewise, instead of letting rumors populate Facebook and other forums, we can counter with facts. Instead of posting memes that others generate, we can put our names and faces directly on the information. There are many more opportunities. All we have to do is start and then keep going. **I work on networking systems and digital video projects both as a consultant and in direct implementation of systems.

  9. Wow. 30%. That's shameful. You get the government you deserve. And if you don't vote, the other guy, the one you despise, might win. If you don't engage in your democracy, you lose the right to complain. It's that simple.

  10. @LauraF What percentage is no longer shameful? I'll assume 100 % of citizens freely choosing to show up and cast a ballot? Compulsory voting, which has been shown to have a negligible effect on electoral results and doesn't even require that I cast a ballot, just that I waste my time and show up to vote, even if it's for Mickey Mouse? People should be free to not participate in the political process and still have rights, such as the freedom to speak out against their country's government. My last paycheck still took out state and federal taxes...

  11. But at the same time, we should make it as easy to vote as possible. And provide EVERY American with the same opportunity to vote.

  12. @Aaron Really? You want to live in a democracy and enjoy the benefits of doing so, but not vote, and still claim the right to complain about your government? I said nothing about compulsory voting, by the way. But 30% is shameful. What percentage would not be shameful? How about, say 50%? How about half the people in your country caring enough about your country to vote. That would be a good place to start.

  13. Turnout is going to have to tremendous. But the real question that burns into every general election is: Who are these goofballs in the Electoral College who put someone like Trump in office after he lost the popular vote by the widest margin in U.S. recorded history.

  14. "That, of course, is how local campaigns used to work: candidates won votes by having personal conversations with real people." In Macomb County, Michigan (the infamous county), Democratic leaders have, and are, getting people to run for precinct delegate positions. It is the lowest level of elected office, and locally the Greed Over People party has far more precinct delegates than the Democrats do. I won my precinct delegate election, and we are working to get more people to run. While we may not have the sway of, say, a large money PAC or wealthy corporation, we are talking to the voters and keeping tally sheets of their concerns. Elected politicians will speak with you if you speak for your neighbors. This grass roots effort paid off in November, 2018 when we as a state and county turned out more Democrats and took over the top 3 state level positions (Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State), all women. Precinct delegates are a very old tradition, but we are reinforcing it in our state..........perhaps due to the shame of giving Trump our electoral college votes by a difference of 10,704 votes state-wide over Hillary. And I tell every voter I speak with who is younger than I am that I am ready to pass the baton. They have to take it up and run with it.

  15. Don't you think many sit on their hands, and don't vote, for a reason? Our safety net is tattered and thin - our politicians choose to support endless war and an outtsized military, as opposed to well funded public schools and a decent infrastructure.. We choose (well, our politicians do) not to implement some form of healthcare for all. Many of our college graduates are bent double with college debt.Many families are one precarious paycheck away from homelessness. So many ask why they should vote if it just means more of the same.

  16. @Ellen .Gosh if what you say is true about the why's of such negligent voter participation in a democracy, I would bury my head in the sand and watch foreign films all day and night. You actually gave all the reasons people who feel the way you articulated should be running to the voters booth. As a women, single mom with a demanding job that required international travel I see the rest of the world. We are doomed if voter participation does not reflect who we are as Americans. Electoral votes have taken away the popular vote I will concede. But once ones heartbreak over such a loss shouldn't want one to do more? "Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country." No?

  17. @Ellen, very well said. How many millions upon millions of people organized and did everything possible to elect Democrats to successfully win back US Senate and House of Representatives in 2006? And for Obama in 2008? Based on the outstanding rhetoric about supposedly being different than Bush-Cheney and ending the wars and ending the neo-con, regime change nonsense. So what happened? Obama continued Iraq & Afghanistan his entire 8 years, ending his presidency with shameful distinction of longest wartime president in US history. And doubled and tripled down on Bush-Cheney, neo-con, intervention-first regime change policies in Libya and Syria. Running weapons via CIA to CIA trained & funded "rebels" in Syria, yet another country that never attacked US soil and had no connection to 9/11. Obama gets credit for being prez when they finally tracked down Bin Laden. . . & then continues Afghanistan unabated for 5 more years, to hand it off to Trump. And, just as bad, zero accountability when Clapper lied about surveillance & Brennan lied about torture investigation. To top it off, like George W. & Laura Bush before them (and Bill and Hillary Clinton before that), the Obamas decide that their children should attend elite Washington, DC private schools, completely exempt from the legal, regulatory and judicial mandates imposed on public schools across the nation. So much for Democratic Party being "different" from anyone else.

  18. @GRH Yes, it's pretty grim in the Congressional support for war department. Last year's military budget increase saw less than 10 Democratic senators vote "nay", and less than 40 Democratic Congressmen/women. Other nations can afford the things "we" want but can't have due to the absurd amount going to endless wars.

  19. Tina, Do you want Republicans to vote too? Just asking.

  20. @Joe Paper Yes, I'll run right out to the guy on my street to encourage him to register because he's a fan of Trump but has never voted because he doesn't want to be called in for jury duty. It might interrupt his beauty sleep since he sleeps until about 10 am every day. First, he's not only lazy, he's a bigot. Second, his girlfriend works 2 jobs while he works only every other weekend. Third, he claims he's the head of our Neighborhood Watch and his daughter disclosed that their porch swing was lifted from a vacant house the next street over, only it wasn't vacant - the retirees who own it were on vacation when their porch swing was "lifted". Fourth, his dogs bark, constantly, at everyone. He occasionally barks back at them to shut up and they just probably think he's joining them. Sorry, but there are enough stupid people who voted for Trump as it is.

  21. @Jbugko I can send you a list of middle - high income , highly educated, folks that voted for Trump. You apparently don't know what you talking about. Remember he won the white college educated female vote.

  22. The overwhelming winner in all elections today is "none of the above." I regard that as a healthy development, because the Democrats, no less than the Republicans, bear full responsibility for the construction of the police state, the erosion of civil liberties, the growth of titanic social inequality, the demonization of immigrants and their separation from children and internment in concentration camps, and no shortage of other crimes. I've seen the hurdles placed by both parties on others, like my friends who have run as candidates for the Socialist Equality Party. At one petition review, a Democratic operative objected to every signature, including that of the official conducting the review! Her reply? "I have my instructions." When politics are frustrated through the usual means, they will emerge outside those means. Last year saw 20 times the strike activity of the preceding one, the vast majority wildcat actions outside the (Democratic-controlled) unions. Time for the 90% to construct neighborhood and workplace committees and elaborate those means, independently of both big-business parties, including false populists like Sanders, Warren, Omar, Tlaib, etc.

  23. I found in some states you can look up voter records with works in Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Ohio. It shows how many days every voter last voted, to encourage more frequent voting.

  24. These apps sound like a neat idea. I have some concerns. How are they protecting your digital privacy in this time when data analytics are being used by malicious actors to manipulate targeted ads and social media campaigns? For example, you mentioned that one app asks users to link their contacts list with the public voter registration for swing districts (that's a red flag!). Where does that data go? Does it stay within the app? Is it available for sale to third parties? Does the app have links to either major political campaign? Does it store its data within the sovereign United States, and whose privacy laws does it fall under? There are a couple of apps here that are cross-referencing private data with public data, i.e. voter registration lists (public data) with phone numbers, friends circles, email addresses, and political preferences (private data). I'm really concerned about the potential for privacy breaches. I really liked those "I Voted!" buttons. How about those?

  25. BARACK OBAMA Had been a community organizer before becoming a Constitutional Law Professor at Harvard. He's got a great intuition about how to motivate people. I wonder if anyone's ever asked him for tips on community organizing. The idea of the program Vote Tripling sounds valid, because you can easily get groups of people together for a chat, coffee, or tea and having an more direct, intense conversation than with a group of 10.

  26. @John Jones, technically, I believe Obama was a lecturer or adjunct faculty at University of Chicago; not Harvard. Also an outstanding, well-regarded institution but I believe the Harvard connection is Obama attended and graduated from Harvard Law School (i.e., was a law student there; not a professor).

  27. @GRHcorrect. as a student, he was President of the Harvard Law Review, arguably the most competitive and highest honor in law schools world wide.

  28. This is almost a sure way to ruin a friendship.

  29. I hate to sound like a broken record, but had a fix for this 2016 and it was called Bernie Sanders: young people would have come out for him in the general election. That does not mean it has to be him this time but it can not be one of these corporatist Clintonite candidates.

  30. It should not take a friend to get a friend to vote. The problem with the low voter turnout among youth starts with the low voter turnout among adults. That only 55.7% of the voter age population voted in the 2016 Presidential election is outrageous. That is near the bottom of the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which consists primarily of highly developed, democratic states. If adults don't bother to vote in this country how can we expect young people to vote? Apps cannot overcome apathy.

  31. "That means that nearly 70 percent of eligible voters under 30 stayed home." I voted AND stayed home. Mail-in ballots in Oregon.

  32. @RM I voted AND stayed home too. Just like RM's Oregon, Washington is a vote by mail with no charge for postage (or drop off at secured ballot boxes all over the state).

  33. Just tell those under 30's they'll receive a "Participation Medal"if they vote. They'll be running over one another to get to their precincts. I'm just kidding!

  34. Don't tell the GOP .. They are much better at this.

  35. Youth should not vote. Young broke idealists who support redistribution ideology should have no ability to influence taxes & spending.

  36. @Once From Rome You mean now that you've stuck them with the tab for your boomer party, it's time to take their vote away.

  37. @Once From Rome Boomers and the elderly should not vote. Old wealthy cynics who support climate change denial ideology should have no ability to influence the use of resources & the future of our environment. Just one example, but you could insert so many pressing issues the older generation is saddling youth with into this format.

  38. @Once From Rome To wit: "People who have ideas that are different from mine shouldn't be allowed to have a say." That's literally fascism.

  39. Neat article, but people under 30 aren't "staying at home" on election day. They're at work, because people under 30 have jobs, and Election Day is just another work day. People over 65 are often retired. That's why so many of them vote. Plus there's the whole issue of "politicians listen to old rich people, and not to young poor people." There's even comments in here explicitly advocating that mentality.

  40. @Randall Gosh, Randall, where I live the polls are open from 6 AM to 9 PM. I'm a nurse and I work long hours, but I still manage to vote. Of course we need more options for voting, but meanwhile - don't let the bad guys win and keep you from the polls. It doesn't matter who you think politicians will listen to, if we vote the bad ones out of office!

  41. @Randall, for those who are employed, that's what absentee ballots are for, and mail-in ballots such as Oregon has. It eliminates the need to find time on a specific day, and lets voters make their decisions at a time of their choosing.

  42. @Randall Young people and people with 2 jobs and hectic lives are unable to vote because the voting day is so limited in hours and during a weekday. Few people can take the day off and the people that are using public transport to and from jobs and/or work 2 jobs cannot get out to the voting booth within the time frame. It makes no sense. If this country really wanted everyone to vote - it would be a two day period and mandatory for employers to allow employees time off to vote and early voting and absentee votes would not be the last thing to be tallied after they already announce the winner. Those votes should be counted first as they are in first. Republicans will never vote to change this as the current system works for them.

  43. I tried, for years, telling friends and family about the importance of vote, that if you do not vote you do not the right to complain. I did not convince anyone. I gave up.

  44. @Common Sense Guy: reminding people to vote, and telling them you voted or suggesting things like voting by mail (if they say they can't take time off, are sick or whatever)....but it crosses a line when you INFLUENCE people by things like a school coach....or when you exert pressure on your friends to vote for YOUR preferred candidate. You will either put them off entirely OR they will lie to you ("sure....I voted") OR they will vote the opposite way you want. I don't know what's worse than a friend or family member who buttonholes you before elections and tries to browbeat you into their position or candidates!!!

  45. Yes vote legal and be of age...certainly not 16.

  46. There's something deeply distasteful about the idea of shaming people to vote. The secret ballot is sacred in a democracy, and the concept should be extended to include not only who you voted for, but whether you voted or whether you're even registered to vote. That idea will get zero support, of course, by the political parties, because they depend on voter lists to raise money and promote their candidates. But citizens not only have a right to vote, they have a right not to vote. And to not be harrassed about it. I completely disagree with the assumption that young people, or anyone else, don't vote because they just can't be bothered. Not voting can be a deliberate political statement, a dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates or issues they don't relate to. Give people a reason to vote, and they will vote.

  47. @PL The results of the last election should have been enough to convince anyone with a pulse that everyone's vote does matter. It is ridiculous to think that one, two, or even five candidates for President will satisfy 350 million Americans. I've been voting since 1980 and am still waiting for an ideal candidate, or one that comes close. Political statements are fine if they can be used to advance a cause, but who is it hurting that so many people, young people in particular, didn't vote? Hillary is ensconced in her mansion with her millions and we're the ones stuck with this joke of a president. Maybe it's time for people to raise their children to care about more than their phones, taking a selfie, cute cat and dog videos, and promoting themselves as influencers for corporate America.

  48. @Morgan, I take exception to yor barb: "Hillary is ensconced in her mansion with her millions." She too is stuck with this president, who BTW is NO JOKE. Hillary was a perfectly qualified candidate who truly wanted to serve as president. If people found her "flawed," well, who is not? The people that stayed home, voted for third party not-viable candidates or clung to Bernie, even writing him in-- are as responsible for this debacle as the deplorables (and yes they are) who voted for trump. They should have viewed Hillary as a place-holder, and campaigned for their vision of perfect next time. Instead-- our system hangs by a thread.

  49. The best thing for democracy would be to ban all non-print advertising in election campaigns.

  50. ...we can all go out and vote - and maybe Tina, just maybe, there will be enough popular votes to defeat the incumbent.....but then, the challenger loses in the Electoral College. The young voters become disillusioned and decide their vote doesn't really matter. What's your advice when this happens?

  51. There is no need for a new app, and quite frankly the idea of a "Coach K" telling his young charges how to vote is absolutely out of line and distasteful. Why not make voting as obligatory as paying taxes or having insurance? It is an act that is as even more fundamental to the health of our body politic. Under that system, however, if would be important to add the following box to the ballot choices: NONE.

  52. We vote and have always voted since we were able (and the voting age was 18). Why our peer group didn't vote when we were in our 20's, we could not fathom. It was Vietnam era. Not voting just because you think your vote did not matter or some petty childish opposition to the candidates available was and is just plain foolish. There are probably other races just as important or more so than the presidential election or a midterm election. Now retired, we see more of our peer group votes but their only apparent reason for voting is all about me to hold on to what they have accrued, not for the good of the town, county, state or country. Run yourself if you can. Service to your neighbors is rewarding. Vote every time. In a recent local election, a handful of votes made the difference and we have seen it happen multiple times over the decades we have voted. If you don't vote, don't complain about the result.

  53. "How can we replicate Coach K for the modern world?" You are talking about the millennial generation. The generation that is the smartest, most talented and geared toward humanitarianism generation we (and likely the world) have ever experienced and yet they don't vote in the numbers they should. Why? Because it is not on their radar as a way of really "changing the world" which is their mantra. So how do you reach an unwired brain to do the one thing that would guarantee a change likely to effect immediately their world. A question! like this one. Your mantra is to change the world and the best way to start is to change the U.S. Question: What is the one thing your generation could do to change the world? ...................................and if they didn't answer vote, then they would be wrong and likely they really won't change anything and we'll have to move on to generation Z.

  54. Those aren't "friends." Friends tell us the truth. The truth has not been spoken in a long time. We need true friends to find a few true friends can vote for.

  55. Greetings from Oregon, where we vote by mail. No lines, no intimidation, no excuses.

  56. Mandatory voting on a national holiday. Everyone who is eligible casts a vote. If you want to choose none of the above, ok, but you still have to cast the vote.

  57. @pl & Morgan. You are both right on track. Voting is a privilege, not an obligation. That said, most people do not appreciate this privilege enough. If you had lived for several years in a place like China in the 1980s (which I did) you would better appreciate the significance of the right to vote. Think about what our country might be like if people did NOT have the right to vote. Democracy is a slow and messy process, but consider the alternatives.