About Vote.org

Last updated on August 26, 2019

Vote.org uses technology to simplify political engagement, increase voter turnout, and strengthen American democracy.

We work to ensure that the electorate matches the population. We accomplish our work via a two-pronged approach:

  1. We build and maintain the Vote.org website and the Vote.org toolset. The Vote.org toolset currently includes a voter registration tool, an absentee ballot tool, and tool that helps you verify your voter registration status, and a stand-alone election reminders tool. These tools are free for anyone to use at all times. Other organizations can also use the Vote.org toolset for free on their websites and as part of their in-person voter registration and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns.
  2. We proactively reach out to low-propensity voters and encourage them to vote. We use a variety of tactics, including peer-to-peer SMS outreach, online advertising, digital radio (Pandora and Spotify), billboards and other outdoor media, direct mail, and on-campus advertising (think full page ads on the back of every college news paper in America. We reach out to low-propensity voters for a simple reason: if you want to increase voter turnout, you need to start with voters who are unlikely to vote without additional encouragement. Whenever possible, we run controlled experiments, so that we can determine whether our interventions worked. You can learn more about our experiments at www.vote.org/research/.

History

  • April 2008: Launched Long Distance Voter (LDV) as a one-stop-shop for absentee ballot information. LDV had $5000, a volunteer team of 10 people, and 500,000 visitors within six months of operation.
  • 2012: 129 million Americans voted in the Presidential Election. 2 million of them visited Long Distance Voter first.
  • 2014: Long Distance Voter was the official data provider for Google’s “How to Vote” project. This project was viewed 30+ million times.
  • 2015: Long Distance Voter designed a tool that allows citizens to complete, sign, and submit their vote-by-mail applications directly from their smartphones. This project earned us a Knight News Challenge award, and our first significant outside funding.
  • 2016: Long Distance Voter builds new and improved digital tools for voters and rebrands the organization (and domain name) as Vote.org.
  • April 1, 2016: Vote.org goes live! This was our actual launch date — not an April Fool’s joke.
  • June 2016. Vote.org is accepted into the Y Combinator tech accelerator.
  • August 2016. Vote.org pitches the idea of using peer-to-peer SMS to register voters at YC’s demo day.
  • September 2016. Vote.org runs the first-ever peer-to-peer voter registration drive in America. We ultimately find that while the conversion rate is low, the cost-per-form is even lower.
  • October 2016. Vote.org starts using peer-to-peer SMS for GOTV purposes. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that peer-to-peer SMS is used for non-partisan GOTV.
  • Election Day 2016. Vote.org runs the single largest Election Day GOTV drive in America. We proactively provided polling place information to just under 1 million low propensity voters via SMS.
  • November 2017. Vote.org gets heavily involved in the Alabama Special Election, with the goal of making the electorate as diverse as the Alabama population. This was our first attempt at marketing voting as a product. We recognized that partisan groups were going to spends tens of millions marketing candidates to high propensity white voters, so we decided to market voting to low propensity black voters. We purchased hundreds of billboards in Alabama that simply said VOTE, TUESDAY DECEMBER 7th; we ran hundreds of radio ads on Pandora and Spotify; we worked with Voter Participation Center to send direct mail; and we used peer-to-peer SMS to proactively provide polling place information to low propensity voters. The results were a resounding success: turnout among black voters in the 2017 special election was on par with turnout in the 2016 general election, and the electorate accurately reflected the racial diversity of the population at large.