No organization has done more to reshape the electorate than the Voter Participation Center. Its research-based, metric-driven programs and innovations have helped register over 2.5 million RAE voters since 2004. The VPC was the first to identify the marriage gap – the fact that unmarried women were far less likely than married women to register and vote – and the first to actively encourage the civic engagement of this rapidly-growing demographic group. Through hundreds of randomized controlled experiments built into its work over more than a decade, VPC has developed innovative tools and programs, and steadily refined its methods. From 2004 to present, VPC lowered its average cost of generating a registration application from $9.79 to about $5 today. The VPC also greatly reduced its cost per additional registrant who actually cast a ballot.
The VPC will continue to build on its many successes from 2014, when it worked with national partners and initiated voter registration based mailings, conducted randomized, controlled experiments, and sent millions of pieces of mail.
As in the past, each registration mailing will target three types of recipients: Birthday, Movers, and Voting Age Population (VAP). Birthday records are rising 17 and 18-year-olds just becoming eligible to vote; Movers are voters who were previously registered at a prior address and need to re-register; and VAP refers to the broader pool of eligible citizens who have either never registered or have become “inactive” or “dropped” where they were registered.
Among other findings, VPC has learned over the years that re-registration of “Movers,” particularly those who had moved out of state or out of county, had a profound impact on RAE net turnout. This goes against conventional wisdom that registering first time voters should be a top priority and is a finding that only VPC’s program evaluation could have identified. Focusing on re-registration of movers has become a VPC program priority.
Online and Mobile Registration Activities
Although its mail-based registration expertise and its emphasis on continuing randomized controlled experimentation are what make it unique, VPC has also become efficient at using both online and mobile phone-registration methods. The VPC has successfully used online ads to register new voters after its final mailing had hit mailboxes and will continue to take a similar approach in elections to come, launching both Facebook banner ads and Google-based search ads to reach RAE members who would not otherwise register through a mailing.
The VPC also has had great success with its Personalized URL (PURL) program for registration on smart phone or handheld technology. The GOTV PURL program creates a portal to allow users to check to see if they were properly registered to vote; to create a voting plan; to see which candidates for their local, state, and national representatives were on the ballot; and to check the weather at their polling location. The PURL Registration portal typically displays a Web page that asks the user to confirm their name and address and provide a few remaining required fields. The user will then sign with their finger on their smart phone and their application will be forwarded to the appropriate Secretary of State. The VPC has pioneered the use of this technology and is the first civic engagement organization to explore its use in voter registration.
The VPC is turning new registrants and new and infrequent RAE voters into habitual voters through the use of its mail and internet-based voter registration programs.