Rock the Vote
|Founded||1990 in Los Angeles|
|Focus||Voter registration, youth voting|
|Method||Online mobilization, field organizing, entertainment community|
The organization was founded in 1990 by Virgin Records America Co-Chairman Jeff Ayeroff, to encourage young people to vote. It is geared toward increasing voter turnout among voters ages 18 to 24. Rock the Vote is known for its celebrity spokespeople and its partnership with MTV.
Rock the Vote was founded in 1990 by Jeff Ayeroff with Virgin America co Chair Jordan Harris and Virgin Executive Beverly Lund. Later they hired Jodi Uttal and then Steve Barr, a campaign worker and political fundraiser, who became "co-founders" for their contribution to Rock the Vote. Rock the Vote supported the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, commonly referred to as the "motor voter" bill, which expanded access to voter registration. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law requires state governments to offer voter registration opportunities to any eligible person who applies for or renews a driver's license or public assistance.
In 1996, Rock the Vote created the first telephone voter registration system, 1-800-REGISTER, followed by the first online voter-registration system, NetVote, later that year.
"We supported Rock the Vote," said Radiohead's Thom Yorke, "but – because of the way the whole political system works – it does seem rather odd to be choosing between one unworkable, outdated system and another. We need to go beyond that – because, at the moment, it's just Cowboys and Indians."
Rock the Vote has expressed support for a public health insurance option. It signed on to Health Care for America NOW!, a progressive political coalition that supported passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, Rock the Vote ran a campaign encouraging people to refuse to have sex with those who opposed what they regarded as a reform of American health care.
During the 2004 presidential election, Rock the Vote drew criticism from Republican Party officials such as Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie for sending a mock draft notice to over 600,000 e-mail addresses. The message included the words "Selective Service System" and read "You are hereby ordered for induction into the Armed Forces of the United States, and to report to a polling place near you" on November 2, (Election Day). The Rock the Vote logo and a facsimile of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's signature appeared at the bottom of the message. In addition, Rock the Vote created public service announcements featuring the subject of the draft. Besides making the PSAs available to large cable systems, they also paid to run them on a random sample of small cable systems where they could measure the effects. Turnout was three percentage points higher among 18-19-year olds in these sample areas than in the control group covered by other similar small cable systems; there was less effect above age 22.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Rock the Vote experienced financial problems in the aftermath of the 2004 election. It emerged from the election $700,000 in debt, and its president resigned in the summer of 2005 "amid disagreements about the organization's direction." In 2008, Rock the Vote's youth vote registration drive resulted in 2.6 million young voters registered.
In November 2012 and 2013 Rock the Vote experimented with Facebook ads to encourage voter turnout by telling people the number of days remaining until the election and which of their friends "liked" the countdown. The ads were shown to over 400,000 adults, randomly selected from a base over 800,000. Rock the Vote had helped many of them register. The ads did not increase turnout in the experimental group, compared to the control group who did not get the ads. In 2012 they also experimented with text message reminders to 180,000 people who had provided their mobile numbers. Texts the day before the election raised turnout six tenths of a percentage point, while texts on election day lowered turnout.
In advance of the 2014 elections, Rock the Vote released a video titled "Turn Out For What." It was a parody of Lil Jon and DJ Snake's song "Turn Down for What". The video sought to encourage youth voter turnout and featured reproductive rights, marijuana legalization, global warming, LGBT rights, student debt, gun control and deforestation as reasons why young people might want to vote. The video was criticized for having a disproportionate representation of left-wing political issues. The video was also criticized because several of the celebrities who appeared in it, including Lena Dunham, Whoopi Goldberg, Natasha Lyonne and Darren Criss, had not voted in the previous midterm election.
The day after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Rock the Vote President and Executive Director Carolyn DeWitt issued a statement on behalf of the organization expressing disappointment with the election of Donald Trump and Republican Party congressional victories, writing "This is a jarring day for Millennial voters, who voted overwhelmingly for Secretary Clinton and for progressive candidates down the ticket...we woke up this morning with full hearts and piercing focus, not just on the next national election in two short years, but on putting the needs of young people, people of color and others feeling under siege, front and center for our new president and the 115th Congress." In 2019, DeWitt spoke out in favor of abolishing the United States Electoral College.
Rock the Vote: Democracy Class is a program put on by Rock the Vote. It is designed to educate high school students about voting, elections and governance. The lesson plan uses music, pop culture, video, classroom discussion and a mock election to teach young people the skills to navigate the elections process and engage as active citizens. On Democracy Day 2011, teachers in all 50 states committed to teaching Democracy Class in more than 1,100 classrooms. High school students in Democracy Classes participate in mobile polls that assess their viewpoints on public policy issues.
This is a partial list of celebrities who have appeared in public service announcements for Rock the Vote.
- Against Me!
- Christina Aguilera
- Rachel Bilson
- Adam Brody
- Bootsy Collins and Buckethead
- Chris Cornell
- Miranda Cosgrove
- Darren Criss
- Miley Cyrus
- Leonardo DiCaprio
- Robert Downey Jr.
- Daniel Dumile
- Macy Gray
- Jake Gyllenhaal
- Maggie Gyllenhaal
- Reverend Horton Heat
- The cast of Jack & Bobby
- Janet Jackson
- Michael Jackson
- Samuel L. Jackson
- Ricky Martin
- Brittany Murphy
- The cast of One Tree Hill
- Donny Osmond
- P. Diddy
- Sarah Jessica Parker
- The Ramones
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Rooster Teeth
- Peter Sarsgaard
- Michael Stipe
- Justin Timberlake
- Benicio del Toro
- Paul Van Dyk
- Eddie Vedder
- Scott Weiland
- XO Stereo
- Draymond Green
- Kendall Jenner
- James Charles
- Duhigg, Charles (February 7, 2006). "Rock the Vote Is Stuck in a Hard Place". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "About Us". Rock The Vote. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Contrera, Jessica (October 7, 2014). "Lil Jon and Lena Dunham team up to take on what Madonna and Chuck D pioneered". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Lurie, Stephen (October 31, 2014). "Millennial turnout is crucial. Too bad pols have no idea what young people care about". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Beaucar Vlahos, Kelley (December 11, 2003). "Youth Activist Groups Target Voter Turnout". Fox News. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Siegel, Benjamin (October 3, 2014). "Rock the Vote Gets Angry in New Ads". ABC News. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Cloward, Richard; Pivin, Frances Scott (2000). Why Americans Still Don't Vote: And why Politicians Want it that Way. Beacon Press. p. 247. ISBN 9780807004494.
- Flanagin, Jake (October 9, 2014). "Here's Why You Should Turn Out and Rock the Vote". New York Times. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Moran, Caitlin (July 1997). "Everything was just fear". Select. p. 86.
- "CNN, Rock the Vote to co-sponsor Democratic candidate forum". CNN. October 1, 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Mattera, Jason (2010). Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation. Simon and Schuster. p. 154. ISBN 9781439172094.
- "Rock the Vote Asks Supporters to Withhold Sex to Pass Health Care Reform". Fox News. December 21, 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- "Rock The Vote, MTV Irk GOP". Billboard Magazine. November 2, 2004. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Sisto, Christine (October 16, 2014). "Rock the Democratic Vote". National Review. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Green, Donald P.; Vavreck, Lynn (2008). "Analysis of Cluster-Randomized Experiments: A Comparison of Alternative Estimation Approaches". Political Analysis. 16 (2): 138–152. doi:10.1093/pan/mpm025. ISSN 1047-1987.
- Green, Donald P. (2015). Get out the vote : how to increase voter turnout (Third ed.). Washington, D.C. pp. 97–98, 101, 120–121. ISBN 978-0815725688. OCLC 922072845.
- McGuirt, Mary (July 21, 2009). "Young Black Turnout a Record in 2008 Election". ABC News. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Kreps, Daniel (October 7, 2014). "Lena Dunham, Lil Jon Team for Rock the Vote's 'Turn Out for What' Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Peligri, Justin (October 7, 2014). "Lil Jon and Lena Dunham 'Turn Out' in new Rock The Vote video". CNN. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "'Rock the Vote' celebrities called out for not voting in last mid-term election". ABC News. November 4, 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Lombardi, Ken (November 3, 2014). "Some Rock The Vote midterm PSA stars didn't vote in last midterm". CBS News. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- Vote, Rock the (9 November 2016). "Rock the Vote Responds to 2016 Presidential Election Results". Medium.
- Bonn, Tess (March 21, 2019). "Rock the Vote President calls for dismantling of electoral college". The Hill. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
- Rothberg, Peter (March 22, 2012). "Democracy Class". The Nation. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Ramesh, Indu (August 26, 2010). "Rock the Vote campaigns to spark young voters". Duke Chronicle. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Johnson, Lauren (March 2, 2012). "Mobile is key to connecting with young voters: Rock the Vote". Mobile Marketer. Retrieved 6 February 2015.