The coveted 18 to 29-year-old demographic has long been the focus of aggressive voter participation crusades–whether it’s been through celebrity-infused campaigns, such as Diddy’s infamous “Vote or Die” movement, or other clever promotions to try to gain the audience’s attention. Although the youth vote has improved over the years, voter apathy is still an issue amongst the millennial generation. But could the answer to reaching this audience lie within their smartphones?
Last week, Foursquare, along with Google, Rock The Vote, Pew Research Center and several other organizations announced the “I Voted” initiative, which tracks users signing in at polling stations across the country. The check-in initiative was designed to encourage civic participation, increase transparency in the voting process and develop a duplicate and measurable system for the 2012 presidential election, according to the “I Voted” website. The site launches on Election Day, November 2, accessing more than 107,000 official polling spots.
When users check in at the polls and include an #ivoted hashtag in their shout-out, they earn an “I Voted” badge. The compiled information will be available online in a visually appealing map broken down by location (city and state), polling locations with the highest turnout and even gender ratios. Users can upload the map and embed it onto outside sites. The latest badge reward system gives voters the satisfaction of fulfilling their civic duty while encouraging others to do the same.
“For the first time ever, voters are going to show up to their workplaces on Election Day wearing their physical “I Voted” sticker, and their coworkers will have already seen their virtual “I Voted” badge on Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter,” said Jordan Raynor, president of Direct Media Strategies, in a press release about the campaign.
Project developer Patrick Ruffini shares the same sentiment. “With Foursquare’s new ‘I Voted’ badge, the age of social voting is here.” Ruffini worked with the Voting Information Project to obtain polling place data for each state. “Asking all your friends to vote is now as easy as tapping ‘Check-in’ while you’re standing in line to vote.”
But some, like 21-year-old millennial Jimel Simon, is not sold on the idea. “Maybe if it were a social event I would go for it,” says the Brooklyn-native as he types on his netbook in a Park Avenue Starbucks. “It wouldn’t bring me to vote though.”
No one will know the magnitude of the location-based mobile application’s efforts until the close of Election Day, but geolocation apps continue to change the name–and in this case numbers–of the game. Either way, make sure you get out and make your vote count!
Janel Martinez is an interactive media producer for BlackEnterprise.com.