Maybe one reason for college students' spotty turnout at the polls, at least since the 2008 election, is that registering to vote, unlike the rest of their online lives, is inconvenient. Seth Flaxman had that thought as a master's student at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he had enrolled partly to explore his observation that the Internet had made just about everything work better—except government.
Mr. Flaxman missed three local and statewide elections while at Harvard, because, in moving from New York to Massachusetts, he hadn't reregistered to vote. The process, usually accomplished at a post office or a sign-up booth, makes it less likely that students will vote, he thought.
"The current way you register to vote does not really make any sense," says Mr. Flaxman, who received his degree in public policy in 2011. "It is from a different era."
So last year, he started TurboVote. The Web-based service aims to partner with colleges to make voter registration easier for students. When users sign up on TurboVote.org, the site mails them a voter-registration form, entirely filled out, and a stamped envelope.
The idea is to make registration as easy as renting DVD's on Netflix, Mr. Flaxman says. "What we are trying to do is modernize voting for the way we live now."
In the 2008 presidential election, 60 percent of college students turned out to vote, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, at Tufts University. But two years later, in the midterm election, only 27 percent of college students ages 18 to 24 voted, the center reported. More than half of the nonvoters in 2010 said they had been either away from home or too busy to vote. Read more