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History of Voter Explosion Efforts

2017: Tidewater Labs

In November 2017, Investing in US (IIU) ran an experiment in the Hampton Roads/Tidewater area to expand on the hypothesis posited by Professor Don Green of Columbia University that voter turnout can be positively impacted by catalyzing a cultural shift towards celebration around election day and the act of voting1Background NY Magazine/Intelligencer article on “culture of voting” citing Professor Green. Results were mostly positive, but mixed. The potential of a 4% increase in turnout was not realized, in part due to environmental circumstances, in part due to suboptimal execution.


2018: The All Americans Vote (AAV) Coalition in Florida and North Carolina

This experiment was further expanded in 2018, in a non partisan effort led by All Americans Vote across multiple states (notably Florida and North Carolina)2All Americans Vote memo outlining the 2018 experiment. Cost effectiveness measured by cost per vote was seen as the most positive indicator of success of the 2018 test (estimated by Prof. Green at $84/vote – highly efficient in a history making, high volume cycle). Deeper examination of preliminary results however, reveals a lot of room for improvement3Prelim results of 2018 AAV/#votetogether turnout experiment .

Beyond strict turnout results, AAV also sought to understand how attitudes about voting may have shifted as a result of the layered outreach executed by the AAV organization coalition. We enlisted the services of Elevate42 to conduct a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey of low propensity voters within the 2018 AAV targeted universe of voters. Of the 1,340 respondents, on a scale of 1 to 10, an overwhelming majority rated their likelihood to “encourage friends and family to vote in the future” at either a 9 or 10. The AAV initiative received an all around Net Promoter Score of 734AAV 2018 Net Promoter Score Survey results. (Historically, most companies average an NPS score of 32; a score >50 is considered good, while >70 is exceptional.5SurveyMonkey: What is a good Net Promoter Score?) The implication: low propensity citizens, when effectively engaged across a multitude of platforms, can shift from unlikely to vote, to voting advocates.


2019: The AAV Hampton Roads Votes (HRV) Coalition

Improving on the 2018 results is critical to the outcomes of 2020 turnout work. A few key recommendations were brought forward in Dr. Green’s analysis, including the idea of shifting some resources towards centralized, voter registration and early vote festivals. 

With these learnings in hand, AAV set out to test this hypothesis in 2019 in Hampton Roads, Virginia. A coalition of over a dozen organizations executed on a plan to “create a buzz” across the area over several weeks, starting in September of 2019, and carrying through to election day on November 5th. 

Events such as voter registration concerts, high school registration activations, and sorority alumni chapter cookouts were held across the region. Over 3,000 voters were registered during these activations; 86% were Black, Latinx or Asian, and 95% were under the age of 30. 

A large event was held at Norfolk State University celebrating local advocates. Titled “SHE-roes of Democracy,” Kerry Washington served as the panel facilitator to elevate the profile of local advocate “she-roes”. This event rounded out the pre-election day activities and drew an audience of about 500, over 90% African American. When asked to commit to pledge, 157 attendees submitted a text message commitment (powered by BallotScout) at the event.  

Family oriented events took place on election day with precinct “treasure boxes,” face painting and youth mock elections. Parties were held at community centers and local colleges with DJ’s, selfie stations, food and activities. The Black Voters Matter bus assisted in shuttling Hampton University students to their polling place. 

Voter file data won’t be available before spring 2020, but preliminary turnout numbers in the HRV area provide reasons for optimism. Across six House of Delegates districts in the direct HRV geography, turnout more than doubled compared to most recent “off-off cycle election” in Virginia (2015)6Preliminary 2019 turnout numbers via vpap.org.

References   [ + ]

1. Background NY Magazine/Intelligencer article on “culture of voting” citing Professor Green
2. All Americans Vote memo outlining the 2018 experiment
3. Prelim results of 2018 AAV/#votetogether turnout experiment
4. AAV 2018 Net Promoter Score Survey results
5. SurveyMonkey: What is a good Net Promoter Score?
6. Preliminary 2019 turnout numbers via vpap.org