Interview by Motivote’s Communications Intern and Young Voter Advisory Board member, Ella Sternberg.
Have you ever found yourself in a rabbit- hole of fan theories in awe at how detailed and determined fans can be? If so, you’ve probably seen the passion that self- proclaimed Nerds have for their fandoms.
The question, at least to the co-founders of NerdsVote, is how can you channel that passion into civic action? Voice actors Courtenay Taylor (Fallout 4, Regular Show), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Naruto, Star Wars Rebels), and JP Karliak (Boss Baby: Back In Business) figured out a way to do just that with their non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, NerdsVote.
Motivote creates a space for the NerdsVote network to get ready to vote. We organize an often confusing election process into actionable steps. If you’re a nerd and want easy-to-follow voting instructions and cool nerd-centric prizes for you and your friends, join NerdsVote’s platform on Motivote.
We asked our friends at NerdsVote some questions about what they have in store for the upcoming election cycle and suggestions they have for you to get involved.
What inspired the creation of NerdsVote?
NerdsVote was founded in May of 2018 by voice actors you may know from your favorite video games and animated shows. Courtenay Taylor came up with the idea over Mexican food and margaritas with a pal.
Courtenay (like many folks) was frustrated with the state of our country’s politics and the misconception that people don’t care about the issues. Because voice actors work alone for the most part, she lamented that she couldn’t even have a “water-cooler chat” with anyone to discuss how to get people involved in the voting process.
But one strong margarita later, she realized that voice actors DO see people! At pop-culture conventions! Thousands of them! And what if she could get other voice actors to talk to their fans at conventions and on social media about the importance of considered and consistent voting? Would that transform the idea that voting is “civic duty” into one of “civic pride”? She believed it would.
Courtenay knew she needed help to get rolling, so she called fellow actors and friends Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and JP Karliak to help. Quickly, NerdsVote was off to the races (and Cons) [Editor’s note for non-nerds: “Cons” stands for “conventions” or famous/ infamous gatherings of nerds around a specific topic], partnering with national voting organization HeadCount at conventions to get nerds on the rolls and out to the polls!
How do you bring nerds together to vote?
Our mission is threefold:
- Signal-boost voter registration information at pop culture conventions across the United States.
- Use social media and personal appearances to spread the nerd word about the importance of voting in local and national elections every cycle
- Offer exclusive merchandise that promotes our cause while benefiting organizations that promote the rights of all citizens to have a voice in our democracy
What has been the response to NerdsVote?
Overwhelmingly positive! A lot of voter registration groups focus on music and sporting events but the Nerdiverse seemed to be uncharted territory, so we got busy and have been welcomed everywhere from DragonCon in Atlanta to GhostbustersFanFest in Los Angeles. We are non-partisan, so conventions are appreciative of that and celebrities can support our goals without running into political issues. Nerds are some of the smartest, most creative folks on the planet, and our voices deserve to be heard!
Obviously, a ton of conventions have been canceled this year, so how has the model been adjusted?
Before COVID-19, we had nationwide conventions packed on our calendar, but have since had to pivot to online outreach. With the help of our social media guru Ivy Bryan and celebs (aka our “Notable Nerds”), we’ve beefed up our social media interaction and developed new content, like our Instagram Live show “Between 2 Nerds”. We work with: HeadCount.com to continue registering folks in-person wherever possible; BallotReady (a site/app that explains every candidate and measure, nationwide); and are Premiere Partners with NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org
Can you tell me more about your Instagram Live Show, “Between 2 Nerds”?
Co-hosts JP Karliak and Courtenay Taylor have an entertaining chat with a “Notable Nerd” celeb on our @NerdsVote Instagram page Tuesdays at 6pm PST/9pm EST, and Thursdays at 2pm PST/5pm EST. Viewers can get questions answered in real time and we talk about everything from what we’re eating, to how to stay inspired in lockdown, how laws affect representation in cartoons, or even personal voting memories! We also promote a simple call to action, like registering to vote by mail.
We’ve had a range of fabulous guests: Ian Harding (Ezra Fitz, Pretty Little Liars), Rebecca Sugar (creator, Steven Universe), Khary Payton (King Ezekiel, The Walking Dead) and Kameron Michaels (finalist, Rupaul’s Drag Race) to name just a few. It’s different every time but always funny and engaging! Set a reminder to tune in!
What’s in store for the future?
Obviously 2020 is a presidential election year and that always gets people to pay attention, but we intend to keep folks engaged long after Nov. 3rd. It’s vital to keep your registration updated, hold lawmakers accountable and transparent throughout their terms in office, and vote in every election – national, state and local! With that in mind, we’ll always have work to do! You can keep up with us on social media (Instagram/Twitter: @nerdsvote and Facebook: @nerdsvoteUSA) for B2N guest announcements and check www.nerdsvote.com for all our news and information and register to vote!
You have some pretty cool items in your merch store. What are some of the most interesting ones?
The merch store has nerd-centric items: our classic logo has thick black glasses with tape across the bridge of the nose, so we play around with that a lot on our shirts. We’ve done an 8-bit old school gaming font trucker hat and we have those collectible enamel pins nerds love. We’re rolling out a special Lady Liberty VOTE graphic design tee by artist Karen Hallion in a few weeks – we can’t wait! You can check it all out at www.nerdsvote.com/shop
What is one piece of advice you’d give to people who are passionate about getting out the vote but don’t know where to start?
If you have time to volunteer, check with places like HeadCount.org, they’d love to have you! But you can also have a big impact from home by setting up a Vote Plan with friends and family! Schedule a meetup now to create a Vote Plan and have everyone do the following:
- Ensure personal info is current on the voter rolls at NASS.org
- Set a calendar reminder on your phone for voting day
- If voting in person, confirm in advance poll locations (they move), hours (they change), and available parking (because walking for miles sucks).
- Take the day off or schedule accordingly around work/school.
- Arrange a carpool or meetup at the polls
- Contact elderly/disabled neighbors to help get them to the polls.
- Enter 866-OUR-VOTE into your phone contacts and call them if you have any issues!
On Voting Day:
- Prepare for long wait times at the polls. Bring: your ID, phone charger, snacks/water, options for shade, warmth and seating if needed
- Call/text/post on socials to remind everyone to go vote!
- If you are in line when the polls close, you are allowed to stay in line and vote. STAY IN LINE!
- Afterwards, celebrate your civic engagement with a family zoom call, special dinner or cocktails!
Remember, no matter how overwhelming the political process feels sometimes, (especially in the middle of a freaking pandemic), Americans have to stay involved, informed and vote in every election, every time. Your vote is your voice and your voice matters!
If you want to check out more about NerdsVote or learn how to get involved, visit their website: https://www.nerdsvote.com/
Want to join the NerdsVote team on Motivote? Click here