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Harnessing mobile technologies will help the next generation vote

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To IP or not to IP, that is the question

With one of the most controversial and important presidential elections in our country’s history –- of which issues important to diverse communities are especially front and center –- it’s imperative we encourage millennials to vote.

It is safe to say either their participation or inaction will shape this country for decades and influence future generations of Americans. 

And while this generation is hugely influential, by-and-large it’s not active when it comes to voting.

The good news is companies and entrepreneurs have taken notice and are rolling out new applications and services aimed at increasing millennial engagement.

There are 69 million young adults ages 18-35 in the United States, making up about a third of our eligible voting population. These individuals, known as “millennials,” will soon dethrone the baby boomers as the largest voting group in our country.

Millennials are the most racially diverse generation of voters in American history. According to Pew Research, young adults in 2016 make up around half of the record 27 million eligible Hispanic voters and over one-third of eligible African American voters.

As anyone who has been on Twitter or Facebook knows, millennials are not afraid to openly voice their views on political or social issues. But surprisingly, less than half of eligible millennials actually showed up at the polls in 2012 despite fervent social media activism.

Young adults are a mobile generation – more than 85 percent of them own a smartphone.  And according to a survey conducted earlier this year by Bank of America, nearly 40 percent of millennials say they interact more with their smartphone than other people.

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of new mobile applications launched targeting young adult voters –- some specifically targeting those in historically underrepresented communities who may feel disenfranchised.

For instance, Voter – an app launched by a 26-year-old entrepreneur dubbed the “Tinder for politics” – was named the “#1 up-and-coming app” by Newsweek this year. Another great example is Voto Latino’s partnership with ThinkVoting to launch VoterPal, an app specifically aimed at registering millennial Latinos for the upcoming election.

We have also seen wireless providers launch new services that stand to make these voting apps more appealing. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint have released different versions of what are known as free data programs that allow certain apps or services to be used without counting against a consumer’s monthly data plan.

By applying a decades-old business model similar to toll-free calling or parking validation to mobile, providers have found a way to shift some of the cost of data onto advertisers, allowing consumers to access more data at no additional cost.

Currently, free data programs are still in their infancy, so most are aimed at more popular activities such video streaming. But, it’s easy to see how the free data model can be applied to all kinds of other worthwhile uses such as voting apps and informational resources like online workforce seminars.

After all, it’s a great way to incentivize the types of activities like continued education, professional development, and civic engagement which remain important to our country.

However, it’s become clear that traditional engagement methods don’t always appeal to them.

Using the latest technologies to provide tools empowering young voters will make it considerably more likely for them to not only vote but also remain politically active. Young voters have never been as important to our country’s future as they are now, so we must do all we can to make voting and registration fit our 21st-century world.

Featured Image: Bryce Durbin