"Deepening engagement in elections: TurboVote expands in South Florida" by Seth Flaxman on Knight Blog
MIAMI (Feb. 22, 2012)—South Florida’s leading colleges and universities will aid Greater Miami residents in registering and voting by mail – with the help of a new, national service called TurboVote.
Miami Dade College – the largest higher education institution in the country – will be the first locally to introduce TurboVote to students this spring. Florida International University and the University of Miami have also signed on to launch the service, which aims to make voting as convenient as renting a Netflix DVD.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is funding TurboVote’s local expansion and the development of its platform. The service – which has already partnered with Harvard and Columbia colleges – will now be easily accessible in South Florida to close to 200,000 students.
“It’s good to see students develop the habit of voting, because you need an informed and engaged public to have a healthy democracy,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of of Knight Foundation. “We are particularly interested in what TurboVote will do in the four years between the presidential elections, where much of democracy happens on the local level. By reminding people to vote, services such as TurboVote can help citizens engage more routinely in public life.”
"Voting is at the core of democracy and we are so pleased to partner with Knight Foundation, once again, on such a worthy endeavor," said Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, president of Miami Dade College, who recently was awarded the national Citizen Service Award from Voices for National Service. "I know this will make a big difference in getting people to the polls and more engaged."
TurboVote simplifies the voting process so that voters can focus on what’s important: the candidates and questions on the ballot. Here’s how it works.
1. Voters sign up at TurboVote.org, and TurboVote will be able to check if they are already registered.
2. Voters can then request that a pre-filled voter-registration form or vote-by-mail application be sent to them in the mail. The form gets to the voter with a stamped, addressed envelope, so it’s easy to sign and drop in the mail, similar to Netflix’s service.
3. When local election authorities receive the vote-by-mail application, they send the voter a mail-in ballot.
TurboVote works for every election – special, primary or general, from school board to federal. And for every election, TurboVote will send timely text message and email reminders to users who have signed up for the service to ensure that voters register or request a vote-by-mail application on time and never miss another deadline. TurboVote also offers reminders to users who have signed up for the service and who vote in person at their polling places.
“Students have opinions, lots of opinions. But they also have a lot of stumbling blocks in the way of them actually getting to the polls to express them – between their busy school and work schedules,” said Patrick O’Keefe, president of FIU’s Student Government Association. “I’m excited to see what TurboVote will be able to do to get more students engaged and involved.”
Cofounder and Executive Director Seth Flaxman launched the service as a graduate student after missing voting in three elections. “I decided it was easier to build TurboVote than to find a printer and stamp to change my registration and then keep track of when local elections were taking place,” Flaxman said. “I believe something is deeply wrong when it’s easier to rent ‘Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2’ on Netflix than to register and vote in all your elections.”
TurboVote is a project of Democracy Works, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y., that is passionate about building the democracy of the future.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.
Knight Foundation: Andrew Sherry, VP/Communications, 305-908-2677, firstname.lastname@example.org
Miami Dade College: Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611, email@example.com
TurboVote: Seth Flaxman, 914-588-5489, firstname.lastname@example.org
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.