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Millennials Are TOTV. (That’s Texting Out the Vote)

With people hunched over their screens, it looked like any other day at WeWork

Dozens of volunteers filtered through the Chinatown WeWork on Monday night. (Alex Gangitano/CQ Roll Call)
Dozens of volunteers filtered through the Chinatown WeWork on Monday night. (Alex Gangitano/CQ Roll Call)

Pizza and cold brew fueled volunteers at the Chinatown WeWork on Monday night as they shot out appeals to people thousands of miles away. They were for one reason: to TOTV.

That’s text out the vote, in case you didn’t know. Dozens of millennials hunched over their phones and computers, pinging people in Louisiana and Georgia. Their message was simple: Get to the polls.

The scene — young freelancers lit by the glow of screens — looked a lot like any other day at WeWork, which runs several coworking locations around the city. But for this nonpartisan texting party, the company partnered with When We All Vote, a nonprofit backed by former first lady Michelle Obama.

“One of our founding principles has been to reach out to voters, regardless of who they may support,” When We All Vote deputy director Yolanda Magallanes said. “We know that people are being bombarded with messaging from all sides, and it’s a unique role that we are playing … reaching out nationally to people without the parties or anything like that, just talking to them about the importance of fulfilling their civil duty.”

They target mainly low-propensity voters and sporadic voters between 18 and 35 years old. They change up the states; today they are lobbing texts at the South, but tomorrow it may be someplace else.

The message recipients aren’t their only targets; the group also aims to mobilize volunteers who may feel overwhelmed by today’s red-hot partisanship.

The art of the mass text has never been easier. The volunteers just navigate to a website from their computers or phones to send a message, which includes information about When We All Vote and encourages people to head to the polls.

By this point in the cycle, they’ve fit all that into 160 characters or less. Now is not the time for wasting words.

Tom Hanks, Janelle Monáe, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Chris Paul and Lin-Manuel Miranda are some other celebrity backers of When We All Vote, which launched over the summer with voter registration as the goal.

The voter registration program took place in — you guessed it — WeWorks around the country and saw about 1,200 volunteers come through the doors.

“This is nonpartisan. When We All Vote is a member of [WeWork], and so not only do we get to support our members, but we get to be involved in community,” said WeWork community lead Alecia Thompson.

For this new texting initiative, about 40 volunteers are coming through nightly. They held another event last week, and they keep it up until the polls close on Tuesday. Some volunteers pop in before or after work, while some stay all day.

People can text from anywhere, but many like to come in for the camaraderie with other millennials — and the pizza, of course.

“We found that the most powerful interactions have been people … talking to their neighbors, engaging, whether it’s a PTO meeting or a school assembly. We really found the power of neighbors talking to neighbors about the importance of voting,” When We All Vote deputy director of states Sarah Elbert said.

As they sent their texts on Monday night, the Telethon for America was going on — the “first telethon that’s not raising dollars, it’s raising pledges,” Magallanes said.

If you pledged to vote during that event, you may have received a phone call from a celebrity.

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