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Concert go-ers register to vote

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news New Richmond, 54017

New Richmond Wisconsin 127 South Knowles Avenue 54017

Fans at Sunday's Jack Johnson concert in Somerset not only heard some great music but they helped change the world.

Touring with Johnson and other big names in music like Dave Matthews Band and Santana is a non-profit, non-partisan group whose mission is to get the "Millennial" generation voting.

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The group, called HeadCount, has helped over 60,000 people register to vote since 2004.

This election cycle they hope to get between 100,000 and 200,000 concert goers signed up at the approximately 1,000 concerts they'll be at this summer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, when young people are registered to vote, they are almost as likely to vote as the general population. Since the age group is one fourth of the electorate, they can make a significant difference in the elections. HeadCount mainly targets that demographic.

With the support of the performers and venues, HeadCount attends events like Sunday's concert. While there, volunteers help people fill out the appropriate voter registration form for their state. Once it is completed, HeadCount ships it to their office in New York City. That office then send the form to the correct state's office.

Those leery about giving their information to a stranger can be directed to several Web sites, including HeadCount and Jack Johnson's.

HeadCount only has a few employees, so they rely heavily on volunteers. It was no different in Somerset on Sunday. Two area people were working the crowd with voter registration clipboards.

John Duffy of Savage, Minn. is the volunteer coordinator for Minnesota and border towns like Somerset.

At Sunday's concert, Duffy said they hoped to register around 100 people. By the end of the night, they had 194 registered. Duffy said they've never broken 100 before and this concert was "irritatingly close to 200."

Duffy said it's sometimes a struggle to get fans interested and signed up. Making eye contact to give an extra nudge usually encourages them enough to fill out the form, he said.

Minneapolis resident and HeadCount volunteer Emily Sachs said it's frustrating sometimes. She said people are misinformed about the voting process or say they don't have time to fill out the form.

Sachs said she was unsure about the organization at first. She said she expected it to be cheesy and fake, but after volunteering for a John Mayer concert, she decided HeadCount is the real deal.

"These are artists who actually care and want fans to get involved," she said.

Duffy said there are other events coming up that HeadCount will be at. They have about six live music shows in Minneapolis as well as a few Twins games. He said they're also starting to go to clubs.

Although the organization typically is involved with jam bands, they are branching out to other genres like hard rock with Megadeath. Duffy isn't ruling out country concerts either, he said.

Duffy hopes to add more concerts to the list soon, but added that more area volunteers will be necessary since two people can only go to so many.

He said at the Johnson concert 38 people signed up to be future volunteers. He's pleased people are interested but "can't help but be skeptical" since there were so many more than usual, he said.

Those who volunteer get into the shows for free but will have to spend much of the time trying to get voters registered.

Historically, Duffy said, this branch is just starting to get out to the public.

Anyone interested in volunteering for HeadCount can e-mail him at johnd@headcount.org, he said.

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