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:
- 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.
- We proactively reach out to low-propensity voters and encourage them to vote. We use a variety of tactics, including one-to-one SMS outreach, digital ads, digital radio (Pandora and Spotify), billboards, and direct mail. 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/.
- 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 mail their vote-by-mail applications directly from their smartphones, earning us a Knight News Challenge award.
- 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.
Facts and figures
Long Distance Voter launched in April 2008, and relaunched as Vote.org in April 2016. These are our usage stats as of April 3, 2018:
- 4.9 million users visited the Long Distance Voter website between 2008 and 2016.
- 6.1 million users visited the Vote.org website between April 2016 and April 2018.
- 940,956 people have used the Vote.org register to vote tool
- 952,600 people have used the Vote.org absentee ballot tool
- 1,577,350 people have used the Vote.org verify registration status tool
- 2,391,461 people voters have opted into the Vote.org email list
- 1,145,267 people have opted into the Vote.org SMS list
- Vote.org was accepted into the prestigious Y Combinator tech accelerator in June 2016. The YC community invested heavily in Vote.org. We used this investment to run massive outreach campaigns to low-propensity voters.
- We choose one-to-one SMS outreach as our primary tactic. One-to-one SMS differs from traditional SMS outreach in that you hire humans to send text messages one at a time to your targeted list.
- The Vote.org texting team ultimately sent 6.3 million SMS messages to 3.9 million potential voters.
- We contacted 900,000 unregistered voters as part of the country’s first SMS voter registration drive. 26,000 of them registered to vote.
- We then shifted into GOTV mode, and contacted another 3 million low propensity voters.
- We sent 981,000 SMS messages sent on Election Day alone. This was the country’s biggest Election Day GOTV drive.
- We spent just over 1 million dollars in 2016. This is what a presidential campaign spends every 8 hours.
2017 was a slow year in terms of site visits and tool usage
- 956,859 unique visitors to the Vote.org website
- 221,526 register users
- 195,424 verify users
- 42,960 absentee users
- 313,133 new voters added to our database
2017 was a very busy year in terms of proactive outreach to low-propensity voters
- In 2017, we ran massive GOTV campaigns in Virginia and Alabama, targeting low-propensity voters of color.
- POC are criminally neglected by both major parties. Vote.org attempted to reach these potential voters via media saturation. We used SMS, outdoor advertising (billboards and transit ads), digital radio, SMS, and direct mail.
- SMS: Our team sent 1,471,085 texts to 428,240 registered POC voters in Virginia. Initial texts reminded the voters than an election was coming. The final texts proactively provided polling place information to the voters, along with a reminder to vote.
- Outdoor advertising: We ran ads on 95 billboards (and bus shelters) in the Hampton Roads area for the four weeks leading up to Election Day. We also purchased advertising on the inside and outside of 97 public transit buses in the Hampton Roads area. That is ⅓ of all public transit buses. Anecdotally, organizers on the ground assured us that the ads were “literally everywhere.” Mathematically, these outdoor ads provided 32,425,392 impressions. We hired a photographer to document the billboards/buses. Screenshots here: https://www.facebook.com/votedotorg/posts/10154870366146994
- Digital radio: We ran commercials on Pandora and Spotify in both English and Spanish for four weeks, targeting Black, Latino, and Asian American voters. These commercials played 2,514,083 million times.
- Billboards: We bought 140 billboards in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and parts of the “Black Belt,” and 59 bus ads in Birmingham. In total this produced an estimated 70,878,582 impressions.
- Digital radio: We ran 3 weeks of digital radio on Pandora targeting African-Americans in Alabama for an estimated 1,746,103 impressions.
- SMS outreach: We proactively provided polling place data via SMS to 585,000 POC in Alabama, representing over 50% of all registered black voters.
- Direct mail: We partnered with Voter Participation Center (VPC) to send 200,000 pieces of direct mail to registered black voters. This represents 21% of all registered black voters.
- Controlled experiments: We partnered with VPC and the Analyst Institute to run the first-ever controlled experiment testing the effect of layering SMS on top of direct mail outreach.
2018 and beyond
We are working on a handful of projects in 2018 and beyond.
- Optimizing the Vote.org toolset. One of our primary goals with our tools is eliminating the burden of printing and mailing paper forms. Hewlett Packard stopped publishing statistics on home printer ownership back in 2011, when ownership rates were in the high single digits. It is safe to say that home printer ownership is currently in the low single digits. Americans simply do not own printers anymore, and asking someone to print and mail a paper form is a roadblock to voter participation. We’re seeking to eliminate this roadblock by integrating directly with state APIs wherever possible, by incorporating 3rd party APIs that let us print and mail forms for voters, and by incorporating 3rd party APIs that let us fax and email forms for voters. We’re also continuing to integrate electronic signature technology wherever possible.