Solutions: Headcount

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Studies show that young people show up to vote at significantly lower numbers than other age groups. “In 2014, less than 20 percent of young people voted — the lowest rate ever — compared with roughly 40 percent of the general population,” according to United States census data reported on by the New York Times

Two years later, “in 2016, only 19% of people aged 18-29 cast their ballot in the presidential election, while 49% of 45-64-year-olds accounted for the largest voting block that year.” One key reason why 18-29-year-olds are not voting is because they are not educated on their voting rights or politics in general. They’re also unfamiliar with the voting process, which begins with the first step: namely, registering to vote.  

HeadCount devotes itself to helping young would-be voters take that first step, and they do it in an unconventional way. 

Founded in 2004, Headcount is a non-profit and non-partisan organization focused on registering young voters at places where they tend to congregate — at concert venues for their favorite artists. 

PC: Headcount Homepage

Kellen Edmonds is the Field Director of HeadCount. In this role, Edmonds manages roughly 40,000 volunteers and has about 150 Team Leaders all over the metropolitan area. “In 2020 this upcoming year, we hope to register 200,000 people, and so far we’ve registered a little over 600,000 people” Edmonds said. The organization was founded by Mark Brownstein, band member of The Disco Biscuits and Andy Berstein

Brownstein and Berstein were inspired by the passion of concert goers and wanted to channel that passion into motivating them to participate in civic engagement. 

“To increase voter turnout, we do a number of things,” Edmonds said. “Look for the right volunteers, and build relationships with our big name artists and sponsorships.”  

HeadCount selects artists based on their interest in civic engagement. Artists like Ariana Grande  have partnered with HeadCount to encourage more youth voters. Grande tweeted in March 2019, “So excited to partner w @headcountorg to bring voter registration & participation to all of the US stops on the @sweetener tour. visit the headcount booth at the show to use your voice and get your ‘thank u, next gen’ sticker #thankunextgen.”

To educate youth voters, HeadCount depends on volunteers like Tyler Kostack to attend  concerts and ask a simple question: “Are you registered to vote at your current address?” If the answer is no, then the HeadCount volunteer assists attendees as they complete a voter registration form. According to the HeadCount website, “volunteers need to be outgoing, be a good communicator, and a true believer in democracy.” 

Kostack, a senior Communication major at Cabrini University, volunteered with HeadCount at the Jaden and Willow Smith concert. “I was there for two- and-a-half hours walking around my assigned area during opening acts, asking people if they wanted to register to vote,” Kostack said. 

If people answered “yes,” Kostack would ask them for a form of ID, the last digits of their social security number, a current address, and a signature. Kostack  said that some people were very blunt with him and told him no. Kostack enjoyed his experience with HeadCount and encourages students to volunteer. 

Ultimately, HeadCount has been successful with increasing the number of voter registrations. As of 2019, 622,847 people were already registered through HeadCount, a number of them being youth voters. In the future, HeadCount hopes to gain more sponsorship and artist partnership, and of course, more voter registrations.

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ABOUT

Youth Voters Unite is a transmedia storytelling project produced by senior Communication majors at Cabrini University. Students in Senior Convergence: Media for Social Justice are reporting this academic year on the voting process and voting justice topics. Their goal is to educate youth voters on the importance of engaging in the political process and claiming their right to shape their own future. 

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CONTACT US

Cabrini University
610 King of Prussia Rd.
Radnor, Pa. 19087
youthvotersunite@gmail.com

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