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New Utah group prodding millennials to vote through discounts, social media

Published July 15, 2016 3:05 pm

VOTERISE • Dismal turnout by young voters in earlier elections prompted push to motivate participation.
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A new Utah group seeks to persuade millennials to vote by talking their language: using social media (with links to easy online registration), offering retail discounts if they sign up to vote and conducting registration drives at concerts.

VOTERISE officially launched Thursday. Its executive director, Judi Hilman, said while it is based in Utah, "we will have a national reach, thanks to our digital channels."

The group's founders, Dick and Elsa Gary, live in Utah, but own a top music-industry advertising agency based in Los Angeles.

"That's given us a lot of experience in dealing with millennials," said Dick Gary, noting that generation's voting participation two years ago deeply disappointed him and left young people with little voice in politics.

"Nationally, only 19.9 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voted," he said. "In Utah, it was dismal and embarrassing — it was only 8.1 percent. Over half the 18- to 29-year-olds in Utah are not registered. That's what VOTERISE is going to do. We're going to get them registered."

He said millennials represent the nation's biggest bloc of potential voters. "They are bigger than the baby boomers. And it's easier, faster, more effective and less expensive to try to reach them if you speak to them in their language, which is basically social media."

So the group is launching peer-to-peer campaigns on many social media platforms urging registration by talking about issues. Detailed information is available online at voterise.org.

Efforts include a feature that allows people to post a selfie or video pledging to vote. VOTERISE will send that post back to them before Election Day to remind them to cast ballots.

The group also is calling for video entries to tell the story about #MyFirstTime voting to help encourage others to cast ballots.

It is also offering what it calls ActionPak2016, reward discounts for those who register to vote. Discounts are offered to such places as Skullcandy, the Nerd Store, Snowbird and Koi Piercing Studio.

Elsa Gary said the group conducted national polling and research about whether such discounts would prod millennials to register. Results predict that about 40 percent of those who see the offer will use it to register.

The group also plans in-person registration drives at the Twilight Concert Series in Salt Lake City and other events.

"I frankly can't think of an election year where more is at stake this year, especially for millennials. But right now they don't have a voice. They are really under-registered," Hilman said.

"People ask us why we are doing this. There are 20 million reasons," the number nationally of millennials who are not registered, Dick Gary said.

He added that increasing voter participation is the only way to counterbalance heavy political donations being spent mostly "by the top 1 percent promoting or protecting their self-interest. That's not a democracy, that's an oligarchy."




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