As a recent editorial in the Pilot pointed out, Virginia elections don’t work, a sentiment particularly true in the Pilot’s hometown of Norfolk. In the May 2014 election fewer than 14% of the city’s registered voters went to the polls. In May 2012, a dismal 10.4% of registered voters took the time to go to the polls.
The May 2016 election in Norfolk will be pivotal. Along with both superward seats on the ballot, Norfolk will be voting on school board members for the first time ever, and will be electing a new mayor for the first time in decades. These leadership roles are too important to be decided by such a small fraction of the voting populace.
What It Is
- The Norfolk Voter Turn-out Project encourages citizens to be voting champions. We hope to engage a minimum of 100 voting champions who commit to a three step process with at least 5 of their peers: registering to vote; education; and voting.
• In these pages you will find information and resources for voters, including registration information; access to candidate information, websites, social media, and press; as well as information on absentee voting and where to vote.
• Voting champions and committed voters will receive regular reminders to register and to vote, as well as educational information about local government and candidates.
• This concept is based on social science research that has proven that people are more likely to act when they have publicly stated they will, and when encouraged by a peer.
Key benchmarks of success will include:
• Number of participants in our voter web
• Increased participation in Norfolk’s May 2016 election
• Engagement with page
Big Picture and Long-term Goals
- Establish a pilot program with the top level goal of increasing voter turn-out in Norfolk’s May 2016 election
- Connect engaged citizens; inspire other citizens to engage with their governments and communities
- Build community partnerships between stakeholders in local elections and media
Methodological Validity: Why Peer-to-Peer
Instinctively, peer-to-peer is the new way of the world, but this methodology of improving voter turnout has been proven effective through numerous studies:
- From an article in the American Political Science Review called “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-scale Field Experiment”:
Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
• A column in the Washington Post, “Your Neighbors Could Find Out, So You’d Better Vote,” further distilled the results:
Telling people what everyone in the neighborhood had done the previous Election Day — and letting them know that they would be similarly informed about the current election — boosted turnout by 27 percent.
• A Knight Foundation report on Local Voter Drop-off highlights creating social norms for voting as a vital solution:
Voting is a social activity, and we’re more likely to do it when the people around us are doing it too. The problem is that millennials are surrounded by other millennials who are not very likely to vote. Social campaigns with role models, celebrities and other influencers could be influential.
• A successful effort leading to May 2016 should have domino effects into future elections. From an article written by political science graduate students at Cal, “Experiments show this is the best way to win campaigns. But is anyone actually doing it?”:
Successful turnout interventions also seem to have lasting impacts on individuals, leading them to become lifelong voters, as well as on their cohabitants. But to take advantage of these innovations, campaigns need to seriously increase their focus on field.
For more of the NFK Voter Turnout Project
Thank you to the generous sponsor of this project, Rose & Womble.
Rose & Womble Realty Co. was born and bred in Hampton Roads – our owners live and work here in the Seven Cities. We are a family-owned and operated business – with multiple generations working at all levels, from agents to managers.The leadership within the company is LOCAL – not out of state – but right here in Hampton Roads.