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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Up to Us, a four-month-old organization largely made up of young techies, is debuting a social media-based campaign Tuesday aimed at getting young adults (or “Gen Z”) to register to vote for the upcoming U.S. elections in November.

Why it matters: In 2016, while 88% of Americans aged 18 to 30 intended to vote, only 43% of them did, according to data from the American National Election Studies.

The big picture: Up to Us, which kicks off its campaign Tuesday for National Voter Registration Day, is the latest effort to appeal to young voters to register and participate in the election.

Between the lines: “I felt so helpless, we were sitting there, watching so much go wrong,” founder Conor Sanchez-O’Shea tells Axios of the first few months of 2020 as the pandemic quickly engulfed the U.S. amid ongoing political turmoil.

  • Like other young activists, he eventually decided that getting his peers to vote in November would be the best use of time and effort.
  • Since then, he's enlisted Outvote chief operating officer Emily DaSilva, Google Hardware influencer lead Ava Donaldson, and YouTuber (and former tech journalist) Sam Sheffer, among others, to the team. Some members of a group that used Twitter and emoji to stage a clever weekend critique of the tech industry's culture have also joined the organization.

Details: Up to Us has partnered with Outvote, which has built the underlying website voters interact with, while Up to Us is on the front end, leading the marketing efforts via social media outreach, especially through partnerships with TikTok stars.

  • Users are provided with three options: checking their status if they’ve registered before, finding out how to register if they never have, or helping to get others to check their status if they aren’t eligible to vote themselves.
  • Users can amass entries to potentially win a videochat with a TikTok star, or enter to win a Tesla car.
  • Via Outvote, Up to Us is also using Civitech to send users printed, pre-paid application forms to apply for mail-in ballots.
  • More generally, it’s hoping to help young voters navigate the basic mechanics of voting, from registering to figuring out when and how to cast their ballots, though it’s remaining non-partisan and steering clear from advocating for any candidate or issue.

The project has not been without challenges. Some young social media stars declined to participate, citing a lack of faith that voting and the political process can be effective, says Sanchez-O'Shea.

The bottom line: "We want to make a real difference — we don't want this to be a stunt," says Sanchez-O'Shea, adding that he's conservatively hoping the campaign will yield 100,000 registration status checks and a couple thousand ballot applications.

Editor's note: The story has been corrected to show that unregistered voters are provided with information on how to (not a direct registration option).

Go deeper

Georgia's early voting starts with heavy turnout

Voters wait in line to vote at the Buckhead Library in Atlanta on the first day of in-person early voting for the Georgia Senate runoff election. Photo: Jason Armond/Getty Images

Georgia's on an early path to a huge turnout in the two runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office crunched by Axios.

By the numbers: Voters cast 482,000 ballots in roughly the first day and a half of early voting this week. That’s equivalent to one-third of the total in the last statewide general election runoff, held in 2018, and about one-fourth of the total ballots in the last Senate runoff, held in 2008.

2 hours ago - World

Sudanese government says it put down coup attempt

Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok (L) and Sovereign Council Chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. Photo: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty

The Sudanese government announced on Tuesday morning that its military and security services had foiled an attempted coup from within the country’s armed forces.

Why it matters: The apparent coup attempt comes with Sudan’s transitional government — in which power is shared between civilians and generals — facing crises on several fronts two years after dictator Omar al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising.

2 hours ago - Health

Johnson & Johnson says booster shot increases efficacy of COVID vaccine

Syringes and a vial of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in French Polynesia on Sept. 8. Photo: Jerome Brouillet/AFP via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson said in a press release Tuesday a global study showed that the protection offered by its coronavirus vaccine was strengthened by a booster shot.

Why it matters: While J&J has not formally applied for authorization to offer booster shots to the general public, it said it has shared the results of the study with the Food and Drug Administration and plans to share it with the World Health Organization and other health regulators.