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How to bump the youth vote

November 6, 2014

2014turnoutHundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the recent election. Yet young people stayed home in droves. (See graph left, making the rounds.) It’s easy to understand why: the tasks of the young can be quite consuming, and they don’t yet have the discipline and habit of going to the polls every two years.

Why not fix that with a direct remedy? Pay them.

We need a charitable organization, call it Generation Go or something snappy, that will give a crisp twenty dollar bill to everyone under thirty who shows up near a voting poll with valid registration and any required ID. This is not paying people to vote for any particular candidate or party. Or even to vote at all — they can take the money and walk away. This is paying them to be ready and present. To develop a civic habit. And for many, to make up for the fact that they are losing a couple of hours of work at low wage. The same table could take donations from those over 30, who want to encourage that habit.

There are some complexities. A small amount of technology will make sure no one gets paid more than once per election cycle. There are a host of questions about how to make this as effective as possible. Is twenty dollars enough? Does this work best at early voting polls? Or on election day? Should there be an early bonus for getting registered? How should it be advertised? Where first rolled out? And as with any such effort, there are organizational problems.

All that can be solved. This strikes me as a straightforward way to bump the youth turnout. All we need is seed money… Does anyone have Tom Steyer’s phone number?

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