At least 40,000 eligible Philadelphians are not even registered to vote. You can help change that with a new app

The 2020 election is all about turnout. We’ve heard it over and over.

What we don’t hear as much about is the step that happens first: voter registration.

According to the non-profit Map the Vote, at least 40,000 eligible Philadelphians are currently unregistered. If things stay that way, those citizens will not be able to cast a ballot in the April 28 primary, or in the general election in November, what is arguably the most important presidential race in a generation.

Some of these people have no interest in voting. (They should.) But, according to a 2017 Pew survey, the majority of the group is made up of residents who haven’t registered for other reasons, including “I intend to register, but haven’t gotten around to it” (27 percent).

Unregistered voters include folks who recently moved and forgot to update their registration; newly eligible 18 to 20 year olds who have not yet registered; and previously incarcerated people—including those on probation or parole—who don’t think they can register. (They can.)

According to the same survey, 62 percent of these eligible but unregistered voters have never been asked to register.

This is where Map the Vote comes in. The Texas-based nonprofit rolled out its crowdsourced registration app nationwide last year, to map where likely unregistered voters live, and provide tools to help neighbors or organizations get them on the voter rolls.

In Philly, Map the Vote shows that, though the highest populations of unregistered voters live in Center City (likely due to people moving in and out of apartments, and because of our inaccurate voter registration lists), there are hundreds of unregistered voters in every single neighborhood around town. The app makes it simple for everyday citizens to do something about it.

Here’s how it works: Open Map the Vote on your phone and you’ll see a mess of green dots appear around your location, each representing a likely unregistered voter at a specific address.

Click on a dot and you’ll see the address, along with a script that helps you start the conversation and provides tips for what to say to certain common responses like, “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t vote.”

You can check a person’s registration status right in front of them, and help them fill out the voter registration application online. You then update the app so other canvassers can see your progress. It’s a useful tool to help organizations already working on voter registration, too.

The tool was created in 2018 by Register2Vote, a nonprofit co-founded by Jeremy Smith, former Army engineer officer and voter protection activist, and Madeline Eden, election security analyst and CTO of Blockchain Innovation, Inc., to apply tech solutions to the crucial, oft-neglected issue of low voter registration in Texas.

“People consider it a red state, but the reality is it’s not even remotely a red state,” Eden says.