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Pictured: Music festival attendee holds sign that reads "The future is voting." Photo courtesy of Headcount
HeadCount has a prestigious roster of partners, like Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Camila Cabello, Omar Apollo, and Harry Styles; events including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Pride Festivals, and RuPaul's DragCon to inspire voting. Photo courtesy of Headcount.

A voting advocacy group is using music festivals to drive Hispanic voters to the polls

Headcount, a nonpartisan voter advocacy group, is changing the way they mobilize voters and is adapting to the times to inspire voter engagement.

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Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed 150,000 registrations to the group's overall efforts. 150,000 registrations happened in 2022 alone.

An Ariana Grande concert might be the last place you’d think of when talking about the importance of voting, but that is precisely the kind of environment HeadCount — a nonpartisan advocacy group — is leveraging to drive voter engagement by providing information on voter registration. 

Since its inception in 2004, HeadCount has signed up 1 million voters, and according to its database, they’ve registered 150,000 people to cast their ballots in 2022. 

Now, in an effort to expand on their work, HeadCount launched a Spanish-language website containing pertinent voting information for the country’s Hispanic electorate, following in the work of several organizations to ensure lawful voters can cast their ballots confidently. What’s more, they’re leveraging the power of music to raise awareness via campaigns with musical chart-toppers. 

“The need has been present but when HeadCount started working with Ariana Grande, our reach into Spanish-speaking communities greatly increased, and we began offering digital tool integrations that could toggle between Spanish and English to support her fanbase,” said Tappan Vickery, HeadCount’s Senior Director of Programming and Strategy.

Vickery noted the rise in Hispanic participants grew considerably during former President Donald Trump’s time in office, prompting a new program to account for the breadth of new voters. To that end, Headcount launched a full-scale website that assists Spanish-language voters to check their registration status, registering in the voter rolls, and volunteering efforts, among other services. 

“For example, from 2016 to 2020, HeadCount's community of voters went from 8% Hispanic to 24% Hispanic, demonstrating a clear need and demand for increased voter resources that supported the Spanish-speaking community. This increase tracked with the growth of the Hispanic voting bloc, which became the largest minority bloc of eligible voters in 2020,” Vickery added. 

She also told AL DÍA News the majority of those voters are millennials and Gen-Z, a voting group quickly rising to prominence, with an itch for relevant political change. 

Through on-the-ground volunteering and canvassing, HeadCount identified a need for accessible materials that would aid in understanding the nature of casting a ballot, as well as documents young voters could bring back to their families. 

“We started by providing our voter registration forms and digital tools in Spanish so that our volunteers were able to better support the Latino population. What we learned was that voter resources and education materials were still lacking,” Vickery noted on the feedback garnered at music festivals, where the organization primarily conducts its work. 

Vickery additionally told AL DÍA News they worked with Weglot, a localization service, and Headcount partner, to effect the translations on their website. HeadCount moreover activated operatives on the ground floor who worked with communities to ensure the translations were accurate. 

“One of the biggest challenges with the presentation of any voter information is that it is often not plain-spoken and can be confusing — and different terminology is used between the states, so there is no universal language for election information — when we did the translation we wanted to make sure we met this challenge and made the information clear,” Vickery remarked of some of the obstacles faced. 

The efforts carried out by Headcount may cut through obstacles in various spheres of the political environment. Many Hispanic voters feel like they don’t receive much outreach, if any, resulting in apathy to elect candidates that best represent their ideals. 

Polls reflect a consistent pattern in voter temperature, whereas Hispanics pay close attention to political races, they’re not thoroughly convinced, signaling a gap in communication efforts from both Democrats and Republicans. 

“Our job is to have what voters need at the moment we meet them to empower and prepare them to participate in Democracy,” Vickery underlined of the mobilization efforts while adding that outreach is an ever-changing strategy as the electorate welcomes new voters.

This strategy serves HeadCount well. Through their continued outreach, Headcount tells AL DÍA News of another movement that spun from gathering concert-goers and festival attendees.

According to the group, more than 50,000 voters have reached out to their representatives via their channels.

“Over the past 18 years, our work has evolved so that we are naturally meeting young Latino voters where they are, and our impact in the community will only grow with these resources and can now provide a complete suite of voter engagement,” Vickery said.

Other groups, like Building Back Together — A Biden ally organization — established a Language Justice Committee which travels to polling places to provide targeted assistance and expand language accessibility, following in the wave of voter participation groups that provide interventions before voting kicks off. 

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