Rock the Vote Drives Young Voters to Polls

After 26 years, Rock the Vote continues to emphasize the importance of voting to the nation’s youngest voters.


“Rock the Vote can take credit for registering millions of young people to vote over the years, and they’ve been persistent and creative in doing it,” said Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The nonpartisan and nonprofit organization uses celebrities to reach the millennial population and make sure they exercise their right to vote. In 1990, the group launched its first PSA, which featured Madonna draped in an American flag. Today, the group continues to use icons to promote its message to young Americans.

Millennials have proven to be important in this election, with these voters largely helping to fuel Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign prior to his endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. And it remains important to reach this subset, according to the polls. A USA Today/Rock the Vote poll that includes the third-party candidates found that, if the election were today, 10 percent of voters aged 18-34 said they would not vote and 8 percent remain undecided. Among former Sanders supporters surveyed, 11 percent won’t vote and 8 percent remain undecided.

In this election, Rock the Vote has made its presence known at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. At the DNC the group launched its Truth to Power campaign. In partnership with #Cut50, the campaign put on a grand entertainment exhibition, forum for discussion and live performances, all with the goal to “illuminate the most pressing issues facing young people in the United States today.”

Rock the Vote has lent a hand in making significant changes in the political world. The group advocated for the 1993 passage of the National Voter Act, commonly known as the motor-voter bill, which allows people to register to vote by mail when they apply for a driver’s license, unemployment, disability, welfare or other permits. Keeping up with changing times, the group in 1999 created an online voter registration platform. The tool has registered over 6 million voters since 2008, including over 400,000 in 2016.

Historically, the younger population has been the most difficult to mobilize and bring to the polls. The U.S. Census Bureau found that the 18- to 24-year-old demographic has consistently voted in the lowest numbers compared to other age groups since 1964, and these voters have continually become less engaged. In 1964, 50.9 percent of 18- to 24-year-old voters cast a ballot, compared to just 38 percent in 2012.

Rock the Vote strives to simplify the voting process and engage the nation’s younger voters, its website states. “We stand for ensuring that your vote counts,” according to its platform. “It does and it will in 2016.”

For more information on Rock the Vote, visit its website at www.rockthevote.com

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