Ride-share com­pa­nies steer vot­ers to­ward polls

Daily Southtown - - BUSINESS - By Cathy Busse­witz

NEW YORK — Rideshare com­pa­nies are cap­i­tal­iz­ing on voter en­thu­si­asm ahead of Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions by of­fer­ing free or dis­counted rides to the polls in shared cars, bikes and scoot­ers.

They say they are aim­ing to re­move what many con­sider a bar­rier to vot­ing: lack of trans­porta­tion.

Midterm elec­tions are of­ten marked by low voter turnout, but po­lit­i­cal watch­ers are ex­pect­ing voter angst over which party will con­trol the U.S. House and Se­nate, as well as lin­ger­ing anger by both ma­jor par­ties over Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­fir­ma­tion, to drive more Amer­i­cans to cast votes.

“This midterm elec­tion sea­son has got­ten in the blood­stream of the Amer­i­can peo­ple in a way that has not hap­pened be­fore,” said Stephanie Young, spokes­woman for When We All Vote, a non­profit that has part­nered with Uber and Lyft to get vot­ers to the polls.

When We All Vote is co-chaired by Michelle Obama and helps peo­ple reg­is­ter and vote. The or­ga­ni­za­tion is tech­ni­cally non­par­ti­san, but sev­eral on its list of celebrity cochairs such as Tom Hanks and Chris Paul have been vo­cal crit­ics of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Lyft is also work­ing with Voto Latino — whose co­founder Rosario Daw­son has urged vot­ers to choose Democrats to com­bat Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies — as well as non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions that help blind peo­ple and stu­dent vet­er­ans to dis­trib­ute dis­count codes and iden­tify where free rides are needed. Lyft’s ef­forts have been pro­moted on so­cial me­dia by celebri­ties such as ac­tor Sa­muel Jack­son, an­other Trump critic.

Uber is of­fer­ing $10 off rides to the polls across the coun­try and added a fea­ture in its app that helps cus­tomers find their polling sta­tions by typ­ing in a home ad­dress.

“In this crit­i­cally im­por­tant elec­tion, we want to do our part and use Uber’s tech­nol­ogy to help drive the vote,” said Uber CEO Dara Khos­row­shahi in an email. “De­ci­sions get made by those who show up, and we be­lieve Uber can help vot­ers show up like never be­fore.”

Zip­car, which al­lows mem­bers to rent cars on an hourly ba­sis, is of­fer­ing a $20 credit on elec­tion night, enough to cover about two hours of driv­ing, said spokes­woman Kate­lyn Ch­es­ley. Zip­car has been of­fer­ing dis­counts for elec­tion-re­lated rides since the com­pany was founded in 2000, Ch­es­ley said.

“There’s a lot of peo­ple who have re­ally busy sched­ules dur­ing the day­time, and we just re­ally want to make sure every last voice is heard,” Ch­es­ley said.

This is the sec­ond time Lyft has of­fered dis­counted or free rides to the polls and Uber’s first.

In 2016, 15 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers cited trans­porta­tion as a key rea­son why they didn’t vote, ac­cord­ing to The Cen­ter for In­for­ma­tion and Re­search on Civic Learn­ing and En­gage­ment at Tufts Uni­ver­sity, so “we want to use our plat­form to elim­i­nate that pain point from the vot­ing process,” said Mike Masser­man, head of so­cial im­pact at Lyft, in an email.

Mo­ti­vate, which op­er­ates most of the bike­share pro­grams in the U.S., is of­fer­ing free day passes to ride bikes on Elec­tion Day in nine of its mar­kets for the first time. Lime is of­fer­ing free rides on its bikes and scoot­ers.

RICHARD DREW/AP

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