Macy Nix, left and Evan Rose get ready to register voters at the Lockn' Music Festival in Arrington, Va. / H. Darr Beiser, USATODAY
Evan Rose, like a lot of other college students, spent his summer going to music festivals. But he went carrying a clipboard.
Rose, a 21-year-old senior at Brooklyn College in New York, carried the clipboard to register voters. "I think we are living in an imperfect world that could be changed and benefited greatly if more people showed up at the polls and this democracy worked the way it was intended to," he said.
Rose is part of a travelling band of staff and volunteers who work for HeadCount, a non-profit created by musicians in 2004 that "works with musicians to promote participation in democracy," according to its website.
This week, Rose and his companions are at the Lockn' Music Festival outside Charlottesville, Va., where the headliners are Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and the Allman Brothers Band.
HeadCount Outreach Director Laurie Lenniger said the group goes to about 20 festivals a year, and has registered more than 10,000 people this summer alone.
Macy Nix, 22, graduated from the University of Texas in May and moved to New York to join HeadCount, where she was previously an intern. She has also spent the summer on the road registering concert-goers.
"I registered for the first time with HeadCount my freshman year in college at Austin City Limits," Nix said. "It was something I had never thought about" before.
She said she volunteered for HeadCount and that after her first festival with the group, "I was really sold on what we do." Nix explains that the group is non-partisan: "We just want people to be engaged." Helping them register to vote means that people are prepared to "step up and vote" when the time comes.
Part of the trick of registering people at concerts is to approach them when they have stepped away from the music, Rose said. But it's not always easy.
"Lots of times people at a concert, they just want to get away, and people with clipboards kind of freak them out," Rose said." Sometimes, you can't even give away democracy. 'Are you registered to vote?' 'No,no thank you.'"
The HeadCount crew not only wants to register college kids, it wants to make young people a big part of the group's work, said Executive Director Andy Bernstein.
"College students and recent grads are the lifeblood of HeadCount," he said. "A lot of life-long activists cut their teeth registering voters. It's transformative to be on the front lines of democracy. We offer that experience in a fun and intensive way, set to a live music soundtrack."
And the back-to-school season is a good time to focus on voter registration. The National Association of Secretaries of State has established September as National Voter Registration Month, and this year will be joining other public engagement groups with a social media push for National Voter Registration Day Sept. 23.
"The period after Labor Day is a really good time for reminding college students who go back to school that voting should be part of their routine," said NASS spokeswoman Kay Stimson. "It's really part of a broader conversation on civic engagement."
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