Non­profit wants NASCAR to ‘Rev the Vote’ in the South

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KEL­LAN HOW­ELL

A new non­profit is hop­ing to rev up mo­tor sports fans to par­tic­i­pate in cam­paigns and elec­tions, seek­ing part­ner­ships with rac­ing gi­ants like NASCAR and sup­port from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce in an ef­fort that po­lit­i­cal strate­gists say could in­crease GOP voter turnout.

The cam­paign, called “Rev the Vote,” orig­i­nally launched dur­ing the 2014 elec­tion cy­cle as a non­par­ti­san cam­paign to en­gage a pas­sion­ate rac­ing fan base in the po­lit­i­cal arena. The cam­paign, mod­eled af­ter MTV’s hugely suc­cess­ful “Rock the Vote” ef­fort, part­nered with the Cham­ber of Com­merce to connect race fans with easy-to-use voter tools in their home states.

Although the cam­paign never made it across the fin­ish line in the last cy­cle, or­ga­niz­ers are gear­ing up for an even big­ger launch this year and have al­ready re­cruited two for­mer con­gress­men — Reps. Con­nie Mack of Florida, a Repub­li­can, and Demo­crat Heath Shuler of North Carolina — for the board of di­rec­tors.

“Rac­ing fans need to be heard as loudly on Elec­tion Day as they are on Race Day — and RTV’s vi­sion is to in­form them about the crit­i­cal role they can have in our po­lit­i­cal process and turn their fo­cus from the pole at the track to the polls on elec­tion day,” said a “Rev the Vote” in­for­ma­tion sheet ob­tained by The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Mr. Shuler, an All-Amer­i­can quar­ter­back at the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee and a first-round pick of the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, said he is “hon­ored to sup­port Rev the Vote.”

“Race fans are some of the most pas­sion­ate sports fans in the United States, and I would like to see more of them take an ac­tive role in our po­lit­i­cal process as well. At its core, Rev the Vote is an or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to reg­is­ter­ing, ed­u­cat­ing and turn­ing out th­ese fans on elec­tion day, just like race day,” he said in a re­cent state­ment.

In an email to The Times, Mr. Mack said, “Mo­tor­sports fans rep­re­sent a broad cross-sec­tion of Amer­ica, and I’m con­fi­dent that Rev the Vote can play a real role in bring­ing them back into the vot­ing booth.”

Po­lit­i­cal strate­gists say that, if suc­cess­ful, “Rev the Vote” could make a dif­fer­ence in swing states like Florida, tar­get­ing a mostly con­ser­va­tive mo­tor sports fan base in a state where Repub­li­can vot­ers stayed at home in the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“If they rev it up within the next 90 days and con­stantly keep it go­ing, it def­i­nitely could have an ef­fect in 2016,” said Jef­frey Corey, a man­ag­ing part­ner of the TriCoast Group po­lit­i­cal con­sult­ing firm.

The Cham­ber of Com­merce part­nered with “Rev the Vote” in 2014 and sup­plied its own on­line voter reg­is­tra­tion por­tal for the ef­fort.

When asked whether the Cham­ber would part­ner with “Rev the Vote” again in 2016, a spokes­woman told The Times that the Cham­ber was work­ing on the 2016 ini­tia­tive but wasn’t ready to an­nounce any­thing “quite yet.”

Joe Fuld, pres­i­dent of Wash­ing­ton-based Demo­cratic con­sult­ing firm The Cam­paign Work­shop, said it was highly likely the Cham­ber would want to put its full weight be­hind “Rev the Vote” to reach South­ern con­ser­va­tives.

“I wouldn’t put it past the Cham­ber to put a lot of re­sources into this to up turnout,” Mr. Fuld said.

A spokesman for NASCAR told The Times that the com­pany did not have an of­fi­cial part­ner­ship with the cam­paign but is look­ing into the “Rev the Vote” ini­tia­tive.

“Rev the Vote” aims to tar­get a block of dis­en­gaged vot­ers in the same way that “Rock the Vote” suc­cess­fully en­gaged mil­len­ni­als in the po­lit­i­cal process via mar­ket­ing and celebrity brand­ing.

Over 25 years, “Rock the Vote” has reg­is­tered over 6 mil­lion new vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to the cam­paign’s web­site.

“Rev the Vote” has the po­ten­tial to do the same by tap­ping into a huge fan base. NASCAR alone has over 75 mil­lion fans, but “Rev the Vote” will also tar­get other mo­tor sports fans, from mo­tocross to speed­boat and gokart rac­ing. And most of those mil­lions of fans lean con­ser­va­tive, po­lit­i­cal ex­perts say.

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