March for our Lives protests spark record-breaking day for voter registrations, organizers say


Saturday’s nationwide March for Our Lives protests saw thousands of young Americans take to the streets to demand change — and the day of action is inspiring them to head to the polls.

The March for Our Lives organizers partnered with nonprofit organization HeadCount to register voters during the marches, with HeadCount deploying hundreds of volunteers to 30 of the marches, including those in New York City and Washington. As a result of its efforts, HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein said in an interview Sunday that the organization, which typically registers voters at music events, had the biggest day of voter registrations in its 15-year history.

“This was the No. 1 day in our history, by a wide margin. Nothing else was even close,” Bernstein said.

As of Saturday evening, Bernstein said his organization had counted over 4,000 registration forms, including 757 from the New York City march and over 1,500 from Washington. That total is expected to climb, as the organization was still waiting to count registration forms from eight to 10 of the marches where it had a presence.

“I really can’t describe how special it was. I’ve been on the phone all day with people around the country who were part of it, and everyone is feeling like they were really part of something historic,” Bernstein said. “It just all worked; it all came together. It brought people together around this higher goal of registering voters.”

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Notable signs from the March For Our Lives rally
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Notable signs from the March For Our Lives rally
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 24: A large group of Americans and French hold a March for Our Lives anti-NRA anti-gun rally on Place de Trocadero, facing the Eiffel Tower, on March 24, 2018 in Paris, France. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Owen Franken - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Possible contender for my fave sign of the day from Erica. She made it at 1am last night, she said laughing!… https://t.co/fPogWRYRZL
Best signs at #marchforourlivesSTL #marchforourlives #enough #endgunviolencenow https://t.co/w7oaK5QJEw
I love this sign and I wonder if it would trigger @DLoesch. #MarchForOurLives https://t.co/QDU4rVDGk6
This sign deserves a pulitzer #marchforourlives (📸 @claremarienyc) https://t.co/9qHcEjbhq6
Enough said. #VetsVsTheNRA #MarchForOurLives https://t.co/9lLTgGrNbd
#SashayAway https://t.co/tGnrCnEqCK
I walked up as she was explaining the reference to an older gentleman https://t.co/KPyxmFsCAE
I’m at #MarchForOurLives In Boston and this is the best sign I’ve seen so far https://t.co/KhI9fPsORr
More signs here at #MarchForOurLives in D.C. https://t.co/TLxPr2vmbN
Listen to the youth. #MarchForOurLives https://t.co/jprvl6iTD3
💕she’s 4! #marchforourlives https://t.co/4TddUG5xXO
A woman just walked up to this young girl and asked about her sign. “There was a shooting at my high school this we… https://t.co/likqtFRQfx
A protest sign during the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at a Florida high school, hundreds of thousands of Americans are expected to take to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Alex Edelman (Photo credit should read ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: A demonstrator holds a sign at the start of the March for Our Lives rally March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers, and parents are expected to gather for the anti-gun violence rally, spurred largely by the shooting that took place on Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people died. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A woman hoists a poster featuring Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the February 2018 Florida high school shooting turned activist and advocate for gun control, at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC on March 24, 2018. Galvanized by a massacre at the Florida high school, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in cities across the United States on Saturday in the biggest protest for gun control in a generation. / AFP PHOTO / Eva HAMBACH (Photo credit should read EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - MARCH 24: People hold signs as they participate in the March For Our Lives event at Pine Trails Park before walking to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on March 24, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. The event was one of many scheduled around the United States calling for gun control after a gunman killed 17 people on February 14 at the high school. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Participants hold up signs as students and gun control advocates hold the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
UNITED STATES - MARCH 24: A demonstrator is seen in the Mall near the student-led March for Our Lives rally on Pennsylvania Avenue to call for action to prevent gun violence on March 24, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 24: A protester holds up a sign disparaging the NRA at the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Natalie Behring/Getty Images)
HARTFORD, CT - MARCH 24: A demonstrator display her sign during the March For Our Lives Rally on March 24, 2018, at the Connecticut State Capitol in Hartford, CT. (Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Protestors hold signs during a "March For Our Lives" demonstration demanding gun control in Sacramento, California, U.S. March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Bob Strong
People walk with signs against the NRA during "March for Our Lives", an organized demonstration to end gun violence, in downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
DENVER, CO - MARCH 24: Kristin Miller (C), of Littleton, Colorado holds up a sign as thousands of people participate in the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. More than 800 March for Our Lives events, organized by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead, are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Ross Taylor/Getty Images)
MORRISTOWN, NJ - MARCH 24: A demonstrators holds up a sign 'Really?' with a the scales of justice tipped more for guns than students outside the Morristown Town Hall during the March For Our Lives in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. on Saturday, March 24, 2018. Thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Morristown, NJ for the antigun violence rally after the events in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which killed 17 people. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold signs while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York, U.S., on March 24, 2018. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. Saturday to demand tougher firearms restrictions from an older generation that's delivered little change after years of mass shootings. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a sign that reads 'Hey, Hey, NRA! How Many Kids Have You Killed Today,' while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York, U.S., on March 24, 2018. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. Saturday to demand tougher firearms restrictions from an older generation that's delivered little change after years of mass shootings. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator holds a sign while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York, U.S., on March 24, 2018. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. Saturday to demand tougher firearms restrictions from an older generation that's delivered little change after years of mass shootings. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold signs while gathering on 6th Avenue during the March For Our Lives in New York, U.S., on March 24, 2018. Thousands of high school students and other gun-control advocates gathered in Washington and across the U.S. Saturday to demand tougher firearms restrictions from an older generation that's delivered little change after years of mass shootings. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, USA - MARCH 24: A woman holds a banner reading 'Grandmas For Gun Control, Because Our Hugs Can't Protect Them From Everything' during 'March For Our Lives' protest against gun violence in the country on March 24, 2018 in Washington, United States. (Photo by Chris Williams/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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“Everywhere you looked, everywhere you were at a march, you’d see somebody registering voters, and we achieved that,” Bernstein added. “It was a saturation, and that was what we set out to do.”

The recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the student-led political activism it inspired has sparked a wave of enthusiasm for voter registration, as the movement’s young leaders have emphasized the importance of voting to enact change.

“With this movement, we will ensure record-breaking turnout not just in the next presidential election, not in the next midterm election, but in all elections,” Stoneman Douglas student Sari Kaufman told a crowd at a Saturday rally in Parkland, according to Reuters. “We’re here today to give you the tools to make a change.”

In the days after the shooting, Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez ended a speech with a call for those who support her message to register to vote, which Bernstein cited as a major inspiration for Saturday’s voter registration wave.

“When Emma Gonzalez gave her speech and ended it with ‘the thing we all need to do is register to vote,’ she threw a pebble in the water that is rippling into a tidal wave,” Bernstein said.

Other organizations were out registering voters at Saturday’s rallies in addition to HeadCount, including the Palm Beach Indivisibles and Forward Alabama. Diane Burrows, a vice president at the League of Women Voters, told NBC News that the organization had “probably registered hundreds” of voters during Saturday’s rally in New York City.

“The engagement has really increased and I think it’s an awareness,” Burrows said. “People are really understanding the power of the vote and that’s what’s really motivating a lot of them. They’re figuring out the importance and power of civic engagement.”

Palm Beach Indivisibles volunteer Pam Weisbrod told BuzzFeed News that the response at a Florida rally to the organization’s efforts had been “amazing.”

“I’m encouraged by what I’m seeing today,” Weisbrod said. “I think this will be one of the bigger turnouts for the midterms.”

With the November midterm elections approaching, Saturday’s surge of voter registrations is just one part of a broader movement to inspire more young people to vote. Americans ages 18-29 have made up only 12-13% of the total electorate in the past six midterm elections, the Guardian reported in 2014, and 50% of eligible people between 18 and 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election.

“We registered a ton of voters yesterday, but this is just the beginning,” Bernstein said. “You can’t really measure this by how many voters we registered yesterday — what you measure it by is what kind of momentum this creates between now and the midterm elections and also leading up to 2020.”

Bernstein said he hopes to harness the team of 2,000 volunteers that HeadCount assembled for Saturday’s marches, many of whom were volunteering with the organization for the first time, for future efforts.

“We gathered this army of people who were motivated by the cause, inspired by the Parkland students, and now are ready for more,” Bernstein said. “And that’s a really big deal, and that’s how movement-building works.”

HeadCount will also build on the March for our Lives momentum through new initiatives, Bernstein said, such as a guidebook for students and teachers explaining how to register young Americans in schools. Bernstein says he hopes their efforts will inspire more high schools to make voter registration available to their students, with an ultimate goal of having 90% of American high schools providing voter registration by June.

“We definitely think there’s a possibility for setting off a movement, post-March for Our Lives, where if a school isn’t doing voter registration, they’re going to have to explain why,” Bernstein said. “So that’s how we turn the 4,000 voters we registered yesterday into a movement to register 4 million. There are 4 million newly eligible registered voters turning 18 this year, and there’s absolutely no reason that all of them can’t have an opportunity to register to vote easily.

“It’s all about movement-building; it’s all about identifying the people who are going to make these things happen, and what started with Emma Gonzalez. By June of this year, I am absolutely certain that we are going to have a game-change in this country,” Bernstein continued.

“Typically less than half of 18-year-olds are registered, and we are going to change that up this year. And it’s because of this movement, and it’s because of March for Our Lives, and it’s because of having networks of people all over the country who are committed to this kind of thing.”

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