Rock the Vote gets hip to smartphones

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  June 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM
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Less than 150 days remain before the U.S. presidential election. Step onto any high school or college campuses around the country, and there's a good chance you'll run into Rock the Vote: a poster, maybe, or a college kid with a clipboard. And this year, they're aiming for smartphones.

To help with their goal of registering 1.5 million new voters before election day, Rock the Vote is rolling out "Scan to Vote," where they'll distribute t-shirts sporting a QR code, which, when scanned with a smartphone, will lead to easy online voter registration.

Founded in 1991, Rock the Vote has become synonymous with the youth get out the vote movement, and they've come up with some creative ways to tap into youth-friendly technology. According to comScore, 14 million Americans had used QR codes in June 2011, more than half of whom were between the ages of 18 and 35. And by January 2012, two thirds of mobile users in the same age group were choosing smartphones over non-data phones.

Rock the Vote President Heather Smith told tech blog Mashable that the "Scan to Vote" campaign was intended to counteract attempts in various states to make voting more difficult for young people, creating voter I.D. laws and making it more difficult for out-of-state college students to register.

"The timing is tied into voter discrimination," she said. "All these attempts to make voting harder are happening at a time when we should be making the system more modern and encourage participation."

"What I tell young people is this: If you think your vote isn't powerful, why are they working to take that away from you?" Smith said.

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