Powering American Democracy: Seth Flaxman
November 22, 2019
“The real tradition in the U.S. is make voting convenient.”
Seth Flaxman is the co-founder of Democracy Works, a non-profit and non-partisan organization that aims to make voting simple and seamless. They provide tools for voters, such as TurboVote, as well as critical data infrastructure for elections. We talk about voting in the 21st century, creating partnerships for a stronger democracy, and increasing voter turnout.
Technology for Democracy
Democracy Works remedies some of the most pervasive and mundane reasons we don’t vote. TurboVote is a tool that enables online voter registration, sends out election day reminders, and even provides absentee ballots. Those mailed-in ballots are then tracked by the Ballot Scout initiative. The Voting Information Project produces the polling place and ballot data that is then used by Google and get-out-the-vote drives. By using current technology to take the hassle of voting out of our busy lives, the initiatives of Democracy Works are building a more engaged society.
Partnering for Success
Democracy Works collaborates with voters, state partners, and corporations to create more successful elections. Since being founded in 2012, TurboVote has registered over 7 million new voters, with 2.5 million in 2018 alone. Moreover, 63% of them were millennials or younger. Successful voter registration came through heavy reliance on partnerships, including with over 130 universities and Snapchat. When Facebook reminds you to vote, it’s because of a TurboVote partnership. The Voting Information Project partnership with Google provides accurate polling locations and ballot information. Partnerships with 46 states help streamline the election and voting processes.
The TurboVote Challenge is the premier corporate coalition championing civic engagement in America. Its goal is to reach 80% voter turnout by 2024. In order to achieve record-breaking voter turnout, we cannot rely on the government and politicians alone. Instead, everyone must play a part and treat everyone like citizens and voters. Learning institutions need to register their students; companies need to work to motivate both employees and customers; and everyday citizens need to vote and encourage others to vote as well. Democracy is strongest when we are all participating and voting.
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Seth Flaxman co-founded Democracy Works while studying at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The Democracy Works’ tool TurboVote has been used by more than 7 million Americans to register to vote, and provides a suite of other tools to simplify voting for everyday citizens. Democracy Works also started the Voting Information Project, a widely accessible public information project designed to remove voting barriers by providing easily searchable polling place locations, ballot information, and other official election information. Thanks to a partnership with Google, the VIP is used by millions of voters around the country.
Seth earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and was student body president there. In 2011, he was honored as one of Forbes magazine’s ’30 Under 30′ in the field of law and policy. Seth is also a Draper Richards Kaplan entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow.