A meager millennial voter turnout in Kansas City’s recent municipal elections is compelling local organizations to combat apathy with technology.
More Kansas Citians 90 and older cast ballots in the City of Fountain’s 2014 municipal elections than voters under 30, according to a study by Kansas City-based civic engagement company mySidewalk. A paltry 0.7 percent of registered voters — 259 people — under 30 cast a ballot in Kansas City’s municipal elections in 2014.
“It was definitely very bleak,” Rachel DeSchepper, content marketing manager for mySidewalk, said of the millennial voter turnout. “Everyone we took the data to had questioned it, so we checked it a number of times and they said ‘That can’t be right.’ No — it was correct.”
To combat the lack of participation, mySidewalk created a comprehensive Kansas City election guide that enables voters to learn about their ballot’s contents before Election Day. The guide allows a voter to input her address to learn about candidates, her polling station and other information such as ballot questions.
DeSchepper said inspiration behind the guide was to empower young, potentially uninformed voters before Election Day on June 23.
“The people we’re voting in during the next four years are going to make decisions about our city that will affect us for the next 20,” she said. “A lot of it is providing feedback to city council and the people you vote in on how you want to make the city better.”
Decried by Kansas City Mayor Sly James, the city’s youth voting problem is so pervasive that it’s recently sprouted up a new company to address the issue. Born from a recent Startup Weekend competition in Kansas City, 1 Minute Candidate hopes to quickly inform young voters with 60-second videos from candidates in mayoral and city council elections.
It’s a brief window in which a voter may be swayed, but 1 Minute Candidate co-founder Matthew Marcus believes it offers time-strapped millennials a personal view into a candidate’s ethos.
“Candidates can’t expect any voter — millennial or not — to carve out much of their precious time to do extended research,” Marcus said. “We hope it helps (with youth voter turnout). … The supreme validation of this idea would be if there’s an uptick in the number of millennials that registered and showed up in the polls. It’d be nice to think we had a part in that.”
In addition to 1 Minute Candidate and mySidewalk, another a group dedicated to engaging and attracting millennials to Kansas City hopes to further compel young people to vote. With the support of large corporations such as Sprint, Hallmark and Cerner, Live KC launched the #eleKCtion Twitter campaign to tap into a resurgence in civic pride.
LiveKC director Erik Wullschleger said a lack of information on candidates and elections contributes to poor youth voter turnout. But ultimately, he said, millennials have to take responsibility if they want to have a say in the city’s future.
“You can actually make a difference by going to the ballot box instead of the superstition of wearing a blue hat to hope your baseball team’s going to win,” Wullschleger said. “If we have one goal, it would be that just the 30-year-olds beat the 90-year-olds to the polls this year. That’s all I’m going to plead to everybody.”