Breakout Session 10: New election year tools and techniques


Breakout Session 10: New election year tools and techniques

Facilitator:  Rod Petrey, civic activist

Scribe: Donna Jolly, V.P. for Communications and Marketing, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

Election Process

The founders of TurboVote wondered why the Internet revolutionized everything except government services. According to The Circle, research center at Tufts, 62 percent of students who didn’t vote in 2004 said it was because of a process issues.

They built a service to fit how we live and vote today.  When someone signs up, we can track their registration status, send application, reminders to vote, and how to do it.  It links users to their local election office.

Nonprofits and schools offer TurboVote’s services to clients and students, doing the marketing and covering the cost of forms. We cover all 50 states.

Results:  Did a pilot of 30 students in 2010 – 30 percent said wouldn’t have voted otherwise. We launched at Harvard in the fall; half of freshman class signed up. We’re trying to get set up at community colleges now.

Issue of electronic voting:

If students can fill out a financial aid application online, why can’t they vote?

Military and people living overseas can fill out application online, but still need to mail it.

Irvine and Pew are looking at these issues.  Elected officials are biggest stumbling block.  Need to motivate citizens to advocate for changes in the system and for funding for alternative methods.

How can we get the processes more interconnected?  Voting is habitual.  If people vote in a national election twice, they are more likely to vote in local elections.  If they start voting at a young age, they’re more likely to vote forever. Kids voting project: Since kids often go with parents to vote, provide voting booth for kids. Turnout among parents increased.

Social Media:

Research shows there’s a gap between what people are doing online and at the voting booth.  A study showed a direct relationship between use of Twitter by legislative members and getting reelected.  But not a link between someone following someone on Twitter and voting for him/her.

There’s a discrepancy between information consumption/social media activity and voting. It’s a public trust issue; people lack trust in congressional members. People aren’t sure that what happens in Washington is relevant to their lives.

How can we counter the influence of lobbyists and super PACs?

Research shows that people don’t care where the money comes from. But concern is increasing, especially among certain groups. compiled a database about money spent by lobbyists to inform voters.

Vote Smart and Elect Next are trying to do that.

Nonprofits could do public awareness campaigns to encourage people to question political advertising. Suggest they look up candidates’ own information and trusted journalism.

The FCC has a proposed a notice about transparency and where television advertising is coming from. Television is fighting it, claiming it’s a big burden.

Are there any new apps in content presentation?  People are less interested in reading and more interested in engaging. GiveMN has great success at universities, creating a social event students want to attend.

What can we learn from successful, national issue campaigns (e.g., stop smoking)?  One element is engaging professionals (doctors, etc.).

Social media doesn’t create community; it adds value.  It leverages commonality.  You still need on-the-ground engagement.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, in New Yorker article on Small Scale Change:  Social media creates weak ties. Strong ties create social movements.

The role of social media is really not to mobilize people or create social change.

It takes lots of personal interaction to motivate action. Then social media helps share the news.

Only 1 in 4 Millenials believes they can trust the system. How do we take the processes we have to build trust?  Take a look at whom we do trust (ex., pharmacists) and how we can engage them.

A big part is that young people don’t understand the political process.  They don’t feel that politicians got there in a fair, legitimate manner, and they don’t want to participate in that kind of system.

Alpha Dogs:  People figured out how to use television to influence elections.

We need more information about what impacts civic involvement.

Florida has mandated civics education in schools. We know that makes a difference.  Service learning also works, but we don’t require that. Perhaps there’s a role for technology/games in teaching value of civic involvement. Learn civics by doing civics: Generation Citizen, in 3 states now.

In Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam:  Americans are now used to writing a check to “solve a problem.”  They see it as something they are consuming; they are a buyer.  It’s a transaction.  But we know that engagement is what really matters.

Need to show people why it affects them.  It’s easier on a local/regional level….closer to people’s lives.

Suggestion: Partner with universities to brainstorm ideas/messages. Answers could exist in academic journals. And professors might be motivated by assistance in getting tenure.