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Former College Classmates Team Up To Create Voting App For Millennials

Howard University graduate Wen-kuni Ceant was 22 years old when she stepped into a Florida voting booth in 2016 and scanned the various candidates and state amendment proposals on the ballot.

Ceant, who was preparing to travel to Senegal on a Fulbright Scholarship, felt overwhelmed.

“I’d considered myself fairly educated and worldly, but I found myself unsure of the candidates and the amendments,” she said. “Although I had earned different accolades throughout my academic career, I still felt ill-prepared to exercise my civic duty. “

She turned to a former Howard University classmate and friend, Jordan Wilson, who had long been engaged in the political process. Wilson had worked on a Harvard Institute of Politics get-out-the-vote initiative, “Harvard Votes,” which was aimed at raising awareness among the university’s students about the importance of civic participation.

“We agreed that this was not an issue that singularly affected us, but one that resonated with Millennials throughout America,” Ceant said. “If we’re not finding this information about candidates and issues easy to synthesize, we’re sure this doesn’t apply only to us.”

And so, she said, “We decided to disrupt” the world of elections by engaging the sleeping tiger that is their own generation.

Waking a generation

American Millennials, some 73 million people born between 1982 and 2000, are on track to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest adult generation by next year. They already represent the second largest generation in the country’s electorate. Boomers comprised 31 percent of the electorate in 2016, and Millennials made up 27 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

But that position doesn’t translate into being the voting powerhouse they should be: Millennials routinely show up to the polls in lower numbers than other groups.

Exit polls for 2018’s mid-term elections indicate that 31 percent of Millennials turned out. That’s a voting rate way lower than other age groups but unusually high for themselves. Midterm turnout among voters under 30 had only climbed above 20 percent in just two elections since 1986, noted a 2018 report by Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

In surveys, Millennials say they feel disengaged, and often unclear about candidates’ positions and local issues that are up for a referendum. To fix that problem, Ceant and Wilson said the needed news and information must get to this tech-focused group in the ways they are accustomed to receiving it – through mobile devices, on social media and in a form that is briefer and easier to digest.

“We questioned that there’s not any mobile app that everyone is using” for elections, Ceant said. “We want a 30-second to a one-minute video and we want our information in small morsels.”

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