Goshdarn Millennials! The inscrutable age cohort that's broadly defined as people between 16 and 35 who likely struggle with internet addiction could easily rival the Boomers as a voting force according to an NPR report on Pew Research Center findings. But, in the last presidential election, just 46 percent of them could could be bothered to vote. Will they, as Hillary Clinton put it, "Pokemon go-to-the-polls" this November? If they don't, it will definitely be due to their own incompetence — not their disdain for a toxic political system, their eroded faith in government, or their anger at a previous generation for essentially setting fire to the housing market. Nope, it will be because they can't engage with our user-friendly, up-to-date, totally non-discriminatory electoral process.
"You’re telling me that the most technologically savvy generation in the planet’s history can’t figure out how to register to vote because they can’t score a stamp?" asks Joe Garofoli, a Chronicle reporter putting the "senior" in "senior" political writer. "The generation that designed apps in high school when they were bored during study hall can’t navigate online registration? That’s flat-out lame."
But Erika Reinhardt, 25, and Fouad Matin, 20, the co-founders of a nonprofit voter registration startup in San Francisco's Mission District, may have changed Garofoli's mind. Their company, VotePlz, aims to streamline the analog registration process for a digital generation. "It’s already hard enough to register, and if people already aren’t super-psyched about it anyways, then they won’t do it,” Matin tells the Chronicle. “When I want a ride, I pull out my phone, I press one button, then I press another button, then a car comes up and I get in it. So why is registering to vote so much more difficult?”"
18 states don't even have online registration, and many that do, including California, require an in-state driver's license to proceed, which many Millennial transplants might lack. To ameliorate the process, eligible voters from all 50 states can enter their information onto VotePlz.org. That will first tell them whether or not they're already registered. If they aren't, it will prompt them to register online. If they can't, they'd need to print out a form, find an envelope and a stamp, and mail that in. Or, of course they could register in person at their county clerk’s office — “I don’t even know what a county clerk is,” Reinhardt jokes to the Chronicle.
That's where VotePlz comes in. Since Millennials notoriously lack access to printers — appliances along the lines of fax machines — and don't know where to get stamps, VotePlz lets them fill out registration forms online, then prints their forms out and mails them to budding voters to be signed and sent in.
"Our grandparents vote in huge numbers," reads the VotePlz website, "but we’re the ones who will be living with their decisions, so we need to make our voices heard. The 2012 election was decided by Millennial turnout. And this election should be too." With that kind of rhetoric, frequent use of the word "yaaaaas," and streams of emoji, VotePlz has been able to get 75,000 users to its site in just a few weeks. Facebook, after all, was able to drive a huge spike in California voter registration with just an online prompt last month — could VotePlz make a dent, too?
To help, the company is also offering "$1,040,000 in prizes for getting your friends to check their voter registration!" You know, Millennials could use a little extra cash.