We’re hours away from the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, an event that could influence a third of voters. During this polarizing election season, there’s been an uptick in drives to get people registered to vote. For Sam Altman’s nonprofit VotePlz, registration has become the primary focus of the campaign season. With that in mind, Y Combinator’s president and cohorts Erika Reinhardt, Fouad Matin, and Ari Weinstein have launched a sweepstakes aimed at encouraging everyone to participate in the democratic process.
The sweepstakes starts today and lasts through November 2. All you need to do is check to see if you and your friends or family members are registered. In the end, participants will be selected to win part of the $1 million purse, which includes $50,000 in college scholarships, $50,000 in student debt forgiveness, $25,000 in cash, and $20 gift cards.
“We’re excited to launch the VotePlz sweepstakes to raise awareness for young voters to make sure their friends are registered to vote in November,” Reinhardt said in a statement.
To take part in the sweepstakes, check to see if you’re registered, and you’ll get one entry. Then, refer five other people to VotePlz, and have them do the same. For every new person who checks registration through VotePlz, you’ll receive another entry, up to 25 total. The contest is open nationwide and ends on November 2, a date chosen because that’s the last day some states offer voter registration.
From there, Matin said the team will randomly select winners from the eligible participants. Individuals must be 18 years or older at the time of entry and must be legal residents in the U.S. You’re limited to one prize.
Launched earlier this month, VotePlz is a byproduct of Altman’s political efforts and desire to increase young voter turnout. “We think registering to vote should be as easy as calling an Uber,” Matin told VentureBeat. “The goal is to raise awareness of voter registration and get more people involved in the political process at a time when it’s more important than ever.”
With VotePlz, citizens can easily check to see if they’re registered. If they’re not, the service makes registering a breeze. And if you’re not able to physically make it to your polling place on election day, VotePlz can have an absentee ballot delivered to you by mail.
Right now, this nonprofit service isn’t focused on specific ballot measures or even candidate positions. It’s all about getting people registered to do their patriotic duty. VotePlz said that only 54 percent of eligible young people were registered during the last presidential election, and, in a survey it conducted this year, “around 10 percent of millennials don’t even know whether or not they are registered.”
Silicon Valley companies are becoming very vocal this year, not only exerting influence on which candidate people should vote for, but also facilitating voter registration. Square recently allowed merchants to add links to voter registration systems on customer receipts. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel was a prominent speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention. And dozens of tech company founders and industry leaders have signed an open letter denouncing Trump’s candidacy.
Will VotePlz’s sweepstake be enough to increase voter registration around the country? It’s certainly worth a shot. But it’s one thing to get registered; it’s another to actually get to the ballot box and cast that vote. Let’s see how millennials respond to this incentive.
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