Amid the clutter of news, advertising and communication about the upcoming election, there is one crucial step that isn’t necessarily being explicitly addressed: One must be registered to vote in the first place. Sure, it’s nice to talk about voting, but without taking care of that piece of business, the messages are rendered moot.
Down in Texas, the numbers are stark. In the 2016 presidential election, nearly 4 million Texans of voting age were not registered, and 9.4 million people didn’t vote in the state. The presidential race was decided by 807,000 votes in Texas. Though it’s unclear if an uptick in registrations would have made a difference, the numbers remain staggering.
To help Texans with voter registration, Austin indie shop McGarrah Jessee partnered with nonpartisan Move Texas (Mobilize. Organize. Vote. Empower.) on a campaign—mainly targeting underrepresented youth—that helps people determine if they are registered. If not, Move provides the necessary information, including a postage-paid registration form.
“You can start to see the percentage of people who didn’t vote, and that’s where you can truly move the needle,” said Claire Whigham, chief creative officer at McGarrah Jessee. “People already have a sense of pride about voting, but no one talks about the cutoff to registration, which is much earlier. The amount of media spent right now on getting people to vote is incredible, but the key step of registering felt like it was getting lost in the shuffle.”
The playfully designed, social media-driven campaign (Giphy is featuring the organization’s full suite of GIFs) with shareable content that includes bold throwback graphics debuted on Sept. 1. According to Move data, it has resulted in a 300% increase in registration requests, with more than 20,000 users checking their registration status.
“We’re excited about the response this campaign has gotten thus far,” said Charlie Bonner, communications director for Move Texas Civic Fund and Move Texas Action Fund. “It’s a testament to the shareable nature of the creative, and the critical nature of the upcoming election. Registering to vote in Texas is not as easy as it should be, and the fact that we’ve witnessed such an uptick in registration requests is something to celebrate.”
A Northern Illinois University study indicated that Texas is the fifth most difficult state to vote in. Part of the reason, according to Whigham, is that the state requires requests to be mailed in, with no online registration option. A prospective voter must have their registration postmarked at least 30 days before the election. Additionally, the form must be physically printed out, which is another barrier for younger people who either don’t have access to technology or simply don’t use printers.
“There’s a big challenge in reaching 18- to 36-year-old voters, and getting the younger set out to actually register since the process in Texas is particularly hard,” Whigham said. “We talked a lot about how we instill pride in people and get them excited to go through what can be a really challenging process.”
Today, National Voter Registration Day, Move is hosting a livestreamed event featuring Emmy-winning actress and activist Holland Taylor and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.