The pro-Democrat organization iVote was founded in 2014 by Jeremy Bird, who in 2013 was a founding partner of the consulting firm 270 Strategies, and in 2012 served as the national field director for President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign. The primary mission of iVote is to “secure voting rights for all Americans” by bringing “universal, automatic voter registration to multiple states”—especially “battleground states” where political races between Republicans and Democrats tend to be tightly contested. In pursuit of its objective, iVote seeks to augment the provisions of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to offer people the option of registering to vote when they apply for driver’s licenses or other identification cards. The iVote proposal would remove the element of choice and would automatically register all eligible voters when they apply for these documents (though they could opt out later if they prefer not to be registered).

In November 2015, iVote adviser Craig T. Smith, who served as President Bill Clinton’s political director in the 1990s, said that legislation to enact automatic voter registration was pending in 17 states, and that iVote was striving to help push through as many of those bills as possible before the 2016 elections. Moreover, iVote was: (a) planning a petition drive to put the issue of automatic voter registration on the ballot in Ohio in November 2016, and (b) exploring the possibility of initiating similar ballot measures in Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

If enacted in multiple states, iVote’s favored policy could potentially bring out millions of new voters who had previously chosen not to register. As the New York Times notes, “Many of those new voters would be young, poor or minorities—groups that tend to support Democratic candidates.”[1]  For this reason, says Jeremy Bird, “I do think it can be a complete game-changer.” Similarly, iVote board member Pete Giangreco, a Democratic political strategist who worked for the presidential campaigns of Clinton-Gore in the 1990s and Obama-Biden in 2008, has said: “We think more turnout is better for democracy in general—and Democrats in particular.”

In addition to Bird and Giangreco, iVote’s board of directors also includes such notables as:

  • Ellen Kurz, a private foundation consultant who has worked with Project Vote and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (which seeks to maximize the number of Latino voters), and has served as the Democratic National Committee’s get-out-the-vote director;
  • Doug Sosnik, a political strategist who served for six years as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton;
  • Rachael Cobb, a MassVOTE board member and an associate professor of government at Suffolk University;
  • Francis Smith, president of a Massachusetts consulting firm specializing in election and non-profit law, political advocacy, and policy work;
  • Michael Blake, director of public policy & external affairs with Green For All, senior adviser for Operation Hope, and founding principal of the Atlas Strategy Group; and
  • Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, a political strategist who served in President Obama’s Department of Commerce from 2009-11, and was the national youth vote director of the Obama For America campaign (subsequently renamed Organizing For America) in 2011-12.

In conjunction with its effort to promote automatic voter registration, iVote calls for the repeal of photo ID requirements and of restrictions on early and absentee voting. By iVote’s telling, those requirements and restrictions are essentially Republican schemes designed “to suppress, discourage, and block citizens from exercising their fundamental right to vote.” To address such matters, the organization has launched a campaign to elect “pro-voting secretaries of state” in key battleground states—prompting the Capital Research Center (CRC) to describe iVote as a “reincarnated” version of the now-defunct Secretary of State Project (SoSP). “Like SoSP, iVote is trying to help left-wing candidates become elected as secretaries of state in states across the country, where they can then change election rules to discriminate against Republicans,” says CRC. The three-person iVote advisory board consists of two former secretaries of state (Ross Miller of Nevada and Mark Ritchie of Minnesota) and the 2014 Democratic nominee for Ohio secretary of state (former Ohio state senator Nina Turner).

To promote its major agendas, iVote:

  • uses polling data and focus groups to “identify the most effective messages to persuade supporters to prioritize voting rights and to increase voter participation”;
  • uses data-driven analytics to identify “target constituents for persuasion and mobilization”;
  • deploys organizers to mobilize grassroots volunteers and community leaders to “target, educate, and persuade voters” via local calls, canvasses, and events;
  • develops campaigns to engage supporters online and drive iVote’s message across multiple platforms; and
  • uses targeted media—both earned and paid—to amplify its message and support “candidates who seek to encourage voter participation.”

At a November 2015 reception in support of iVote, special guests included Congressional Black Caucus chairman G.K. Butterfield and Congressional Progressive Caucus members David Cicilline and Jim McGovern.


[1] According to iVote, “30 percent of eligible African Americans, 40 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asian Americans, and 41 percent of young adults (ages 18-24), were not registered to vote in 2008.”

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