TurboVote Making Voting Easier

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Seth Flaxman
Kathryn Peters

Year Founded:

Our vision is straightforward: make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election.

TurboVote Making Voting Easier Through Technology and the Internet

Voting should fit the way we live

If there is one issue we can all agree upon, it’s that the right to vote is the ultimate act signifying a representative democracy. America, being the quintessential standard bearer of democracy, one would think voting would be easily available, functional, encouraged and even honored. We all know this is not the case, and the consequences are quite dire.  

Voting rates have remained consistently low for the last several decades. We know that the more people that vote, the more representative our democracy is of our country.  The fewer people that vote the government is accountable to a smaller and smaller subset of the population, eroding the very principles our country was founded on.  Compared to other countries overall, the U.S. ranks 138th in voter turnout. One application that is on the forefront of changing that is TurboVote, a product developed by Democracy Works, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded on the idea that voting should fit the way we live, using technology and the Internet to make it easier, resulting in higher turnout.

80 percent of users responded that they would not have voted had it not been for TurboVote

Voter turnout was a bit higher this presidential election with 57.9 percent of eligible voters participating compared to 2012, when 53.6 percent voted, based on 129.1 million votes cast and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. In fact, 80 percent of users responded that they would not have voted had it not been for TurboVote, which provides voter registration assistance, absentee ballot requests, and election reminders and notifications.

 The use of technology, such as mobile phones and outreach via email, sets TurboVote apart from other canvassing or grassroots mobilization. Its subscription program offers assistance registering, obtaining absentee ballots and voting by mail. Most effectively, TurboVote subscribers can also opt to receive reminders about registration deadlines and upcoming elections. In a sense, it does for voting what Netflix did for DVDs—if a voter needs a form to register or vote by mail, TurboVote mails them the necessary materials along with an addressed, stamped envelope.


To underscore the thrust and importance of TurboVote’s mission, research shows that process issues are one of the major factors keeping nearly two-thirds of voters from casting their ballots on Election Day. According to the Pew Research Center in 2014, 34 percent of Americans who did not vote said it was because they were too busy, out of town, sick or forgot, and 35 percent said it was because they had a school or work conflict. Another 10 percent said it was because they missed a registration deadline, recently moved or had no transportation. These are precisely the barriers TurboVote seeks to eliminate.
To date, through partnerships with more than 220 universities and a dozen nonprofit organizations, TurboVote has served more than 1 million voters since the 2012 election cycle. The impact of the service is clear and measurable. When nationwide voter turnout dipped to 57 percent during the 2012 election, TurboVote helped its first-time registrants turn out at a rate of 75 percent, and returning voter turn out at a rate of 80 percent.
The next step for Democracy Works’ TurboVote is to expand their partnerships beyond universities and to reach a broader swath of the country. Its latest initiative, the TurboVote Challenge, brings together some of the most recognized and innovative organizations like Starbucks, Univision, Target, Airbnb, Spotify, Lyft, and several others to make a long-term commitment to increasing voter registration and participation across America. The goal is to reach 80 percent voter turnout, increasing the turnout by 20 percent in presidential elections through a wide, cross-sector effort to help increase access and modernize voting.

When we ask the leadership team at TurboVote what they would do with a $300,000 grant here’s what they said:

In order for revenue from TurboVote partnerships to support core activities by 2018, it is essential that the organization expand its partnerships. A grant of $300,000 would help us do two things: One, contribute toward marketing and business development efforts to sustain and expand partnership revenue, while simultaneously maintaining our existing partnerships; and two, allow us to invest in new products and emerging voting technologies like Ballot Scout, which helps local election administrators track absentee ballots as they travel through the mail.

How does the mission of Democracy Works align with that of Invest America?

Democracy Works is aligned with our belief that an effective electoral system sits at the heart of a meaningful and representative governing process. Yet, the connection between what citizens want and what elected officials do is a tenuous one. The goal of Democracy Works is to build the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy and improve the voting experience for voters and election officials alike. The vision is straightforward: make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election. 

Learn more about TurboVote here
Donate to Democracy Works here

Invest America Fund is a seed fund building a community, joining social and political entrepreneurs with funders committed to cross-partisan policy transformation.  We target and support leaders and organizations whose ideas and approaches have the potential to reach and improve the lives of 150 million or more American voters.  The Fund is building a national matrix of steady-state funders to tackle the most important issues facing our country today and is inspiring a “Silicon Valley” for political reform.