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Monday March 20th

View from the Hill

Lil John and "Turn Down For What?" help inspire youth voter turnout

How do you get young people to turn out on Nov. 4 to vote, particularly when they tend to have significantly lower participation rates during midterm elections than in a presidential year?

Rock the Vote has enlisted well-known rapper Lil John — and his multi-platinum hit song "Turn Down For What?"

Last week, the group released an electorally themed version of "Turn Down For What?"

The ad, called “#TURNOUTFORWHAT”, also features Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen, Whoopi Goldberg and a number of other celebrities dancing and giving reasons why they are voting — some of which are more serious than others.

The ad has received more than 727,000 views on YouTube since it was posted Oct. 7. Though no one is pretending it will ever come close to the 120 million YouTube views reached by the original music video, it's a significant reach for a voter turnout initiative.

Rock the Vote has created a number of celebrity-infused ads, trying to inspire young people to get out to vote. In 2012 they released a video on the comedy-video site Funny or Die featuring Miley Cyrus, Neil Patrick Harris and Jane Lynch.

The video does feature potentially offensive language, but the celebrities are light-heartedly praising the value of voting.

Other groups are looking for similar success in creating viral ads that inform voters and get them to turn out on Election Day.

The College Republican National Committee has run ads based on the reality show “Say Yes to the Dress” — where instead of bridal gowns, young women are shopping for the right candidate (spoiler: it’s the Republican).

One ad from Florida encourages voters to “Say yes to Rick Snyder” instead of Democrat Charlie Crist.

As with other ads produced by the CRNC, this ad has received criticism for treating women in a patronizing way and suggesting a need to filter political discussions for women through the prism of a show about wedding gowns.

Less controversially, the group has also begun making ads riffing on the popular entrepreneur show “Shark Tank." One example is this ad on how a Democrat pitches the “Sharks” about his plan to stimulate the economy if he is elected.

The National Rifle Association has been engaging with the turnout effort as well — the group has ads promoting its “Trigger the Vote” campaign. In one ad a father shows his son a locked case, presumably for a gun, and talks to him about the importance of what is in the box.

“Why do you have it?” the boy asks.

“It’s important that I protect my family, and our rights,” the father answers.

“Does everyone have one?”

“No, but they should.”

Equality Illinois created an ad heavy on double-entendre, imploring voters to “Get their V-Card.”

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