How to Get 18- to 24-Year-Olds to Vote? The November Fourth Concerts!


What if voters end up not “Feeling the Bern” for the final Democratic ticket? Were that to happen, it’s all too easy to imagine those campus activists staying home for the general election. But I have the answer in one simple word – music.

I can’t deny it: I’m obsessed with the presidential election. Every week the percentage of my Facebook feed devoted to candidates grows a little bigger, and I just want more. But even as I gobble up the latest NPR story, I know I’ve reached the point where I don’t actually need any more information. I know how I feel. Scared. Super scared. And I know what I’m going to do in November. Vote. I will be making sure my black felt-tip pen thoroughly and forcefully fills the oval on my ballot. But in my true-blue, winner-take-all state, it is certain I will not be making a difference with my felt-tip pen.

So recently I thought to myself, what is the demographic that would likely vote the way I will vote (and if you’ve read so far, “true-blue” and “NPR” might have tipped you off as to which way that is), but needs some motivation to get to the polls? And then, over my coffee cup at the breakfast table, I spied them.


Well, not actually my teenagers. To my eternal sadness, they will be not-quite old enough to vote this year. But the youngest segment of the voting population doesn’t have a great track record for rocking the vote. A fair number of them are Bernie Sanders supporters, but what if that isn’t enough? And what if the final Democratic ticket is not Feeling the Bern? Were that to happen, it’s all too easy to imagine those campus activists staying home for the general election.

But as took another sip of coffee, it occurred to me that I was as qualified a person as anyone else to figure out how to motivate teens. After all, that’s pretty much what I try to do as a mom every day. And here were two teenage specimens sitting right across from me. Take my daughter, the elder, almost seventeen. What motivates her? And then it hit me: music.

Music is woven into my daughter’s day at all possible opportunities. Spotify is her constant companion, and while her frustration concerning concerts right now is mostly about over-18 shows and her lack of a driver’s license, in a few years it will be about money. The concerts she wants to see are exorbitantly priced, and tickets are hard to score even if you have the cash.

But what if you could see a chart-topping artist in the nearest metropolitan area – for free, as long as you voted?

I am calling on musicians to stage, at their expense, free concerts on November 4th, 2016, with a special call-out to artists of color. As an agnostic woman in this country, I am nervous enough about win on the Republican side, but if I were anything but Caucasian, I would be quaking in my boots. So Beyonce and Jay-Z, let’s pitch in. You wildly popular Canadians Drake and The Weeknd, help your neighbors to the south that have downloaded you so many times. Selena Gomez – your paternal Mexican heritage has got to give you some skin in this game. And hell, anyone who supports the idea of our diverse society, grab a venue and join us. Adele? Taylor Swift? We await your reply.

How would we verify who has voted? What would the upper cutoff age be? What venues are even available on that date at this point? What kind of security issues might arise? I don’t know. There are probably a dozen good reasons why this wouldn’t work. But imagine if it did. Imagine if hundreds of thousands of young voters engaged in their civic duty who would otherwise have stayed home. Imagine it making a difference.

Connie Hertzberg Mayo is a longtime resident of the Boston area. Her debut novel, The Island of Worthy Boys, was published by She Writes Press in October 2015.  Find out more at

Image via Wikimedia Commons/in the public domain 

  • John Richard Petersen

    Rewarding voters for voting of for not voting is illegal.

    Business owners beware: Offering a discount or a freebie to voters Tuesday is illegal. But despite a clear federal ban on such activities, they’ve only proliferated in recent years.
    A Washington D.C. yoga studio is offering 10 percent off for showing an “I Voted” sticker. An oyster bar is offering free shellfish and a drink. Coffee chain Tim Horton’s, which is based in Canada but has stores in several U.S. states, promised a free donut with the purchase of a coffee. Einstein Bagels promised voters a free bagel. A California hot dog restaurant is offering a free frankfurter.
    These are just some of the dozens — if not hundreds — of businesses nationwide who are trying to capitalize on the civic spirit of election day, and do their part to encourage voting.
    (PHOTOS: Election Day freebies)
    But election law experts say the discounts and giveaways are plainly illegal — no matter how innocent or nonpartisan the intentions.
    “In elections in which federal candidates are on the ballot, no one can offer any kind of benefit or reward for voting. The simple way to deal with this is to open up the event to all comers — voters and nonvoters alike,” law professor and election law expert Rick Hasen told POLITICO in 2010.
    “This is a very common problem, because people believe they are doing their civic duty by encouraging other people to vote. And in many states, in elections when federal candidates are not on the ballot, this activity is perfectly legal,” Hasen, who teaches law at University of California Irvine, said.
    In a follow-up e-mail on Monday, Hasen said he didn’t think the law should be changed just because these specials have proliferated in recent years.
    “These things can be targeted to help voters known to vote for one candidate or another,” Hasen said, raising the specter of corruption.
    Tim Hortons told POLITICO they had modified their promotion after being alerted it appeared to be at odds with election law.
    “We have shared this with our legal department and in the effort of time to research the issue, we are opening up the promotion to anyone (all guests, voters and nonvoters) via a coupon on our website in celebration of Election Day, not just voting,” company spokesperson Brynn Burton said in an email. “Guests will need to print off the coupon to receive the free donut with beverage purchase.”
    Washington D.C.-based burger chain Z-Burger also modified their promotion after discovering the law did not permit the deal as originally outlined.
    “What we just wanted to do is just get into the spirit of the election,” owner Peter Tabibian said. Free burgers are available to anyone on election day, as long as they say the secret code “Z-VOTE”
    The issue also forced national chains Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s and Krispy Kreme to modify their promotions in 2008 to avoid running afoul of election law.
    And ultimately, most business owners simply want to encourage a civic spirit and pride in the U.S. democratic process.
    “I love this country,” said Tabibian, who is an Iranian American. “I escaped from my country to be

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