Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jammin' The Vote With Dave Matthews, Wilco, Phish and Bob Weir


PDA is going to be registering people to vote and talking with them about progressive solutions to American challenges at Crosby Stills and Nash concerts across America starting next month. And they'll be talking about progressive candidates who can make a difference, like David Gill in Illinois and Norman Solomon in California. Blue America will be working with them on a project that will put a rare and beautiful numbered, signed Neil Young art print into the hands of one lucky winner. You'll be hearing more about that very soon. But there's another organization working the rock'n'roll circuit, particularly the jam band circuit to register voters and that's Headcount. Like PDA, Headcount is a grassroots organization; unlike PDA, Headcount is a non-partisan group. It's primary function is to use the power of music to register voters and raise social consciousness. Since 2004, HeadCount has staged voter registration drives at over 2,000 concerts and signed up over 175,000 voters. With questions looming about young voter turnout in this election cycle-- between disappointment with promises from 2008 and GOP efforts to disenfranchise young voters, some major rock bands are hosting voter registration drives at all their summer concerts.

Headcount's “Great American Road Trip,” is a cross-country trek taken by young volunteers who are following the Dave Matthews Band, Wilco, Phish and Furthur (Grateful Dead) across the country, just to register voters at each stop on each tour. Because, as our friends at Headcount like to ask, "what's more American than rock'n'roll?

They expect to register voters at 103 concerts and cover 15,000 miles. Each band has been assigned a crack Headcount team of 2 to 4 volunteers who will be augmented in each city by another 10 local volunteers. Anyone 18 years of age or older can sign up to volunteer at

The HeadCount team is traveling to each Dave Matthews Band show in a Volkswagen Routan minivan-- and filing dispatches from the road on the HeadCount blog. Volkswagen of America, Inc. and Dave Matthews Band’s Bama Works Fund are covering all the volunteers’ travel costs.

HeadCount set an all-time record for a single concert tour when they registered 12,161 voters with Dave Matthews Band in 2004. That year, turnout by voters age 18 to 24 jumped 11 percent. It was by far the largest increase among any age group. In 2008 that trend continued, with young voters being the only age group to show an increase in turnout.

However, it will take some work if that trend is to continue. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that only 43 percent of young voters said they were very interested in the Presidential election, compared to 65 percent in a poll taken at the same time of year in 2008. Another poll by Gallup said that only 56 percent of registered voters under the age of 30 plan to cast their ballot in November.

One of the best ways to increase voter turnout is by welcoming new voters into the democratic process. In 2008, over 72 percent of the voters registered by HeadCount turned out to vote, according to an independent study by the Washington, D.C.-based New Organizing Institute. That same study said that over 4 million votes were cast that year by individuals who registered to vote through independent groups like HeadCount.

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