In Virginia’s lowest turnout election, technology startup Branch provides a new way for young voters to engage
Last Friday, early voting began for Virginia’s 2023 primary elections. In just under two months, Virginia voters will select which candidates have a chance to become lawmakers for the state, influencing pressing issues from abortion to how much your power bill costs each month.
This is an especially big election year for Virginia, with opportunity for high turnover and dramatic change within the state Capitol. That’s because all 140 state legislative seats will be on the ballot for the first time after the districts were redrawn following the 2020 census. Many incumbent lawmakers will be running against each other in these new districts. Moreover, between 15% and 20% of incumbents are not running for office again.
Yet unlike a typical election year, in which hundreds of thousands of Virginians will flock to the polls, this election will draw sparser numbers. Virginia has extremely low voter turnout in odd-year primary elections, with only about 10% of registered voters casting a ballot. This small group of voters will have an outsized influence over the state’s laws and priorities over the next 4 years.
A new technology startup called Branch is looking to change this historical trend by helping young voters get informed about these state and local elections. Branch is a free, nonpartisan website that informs you about your unique ballot. You enter your address, and Branch walks you through every office and candidate on your ballot, including simple, nonpartisan descriptions of where candidates stand on key issues.
“Most of the issues that people really care about — how much we pay in taxes, how easy it is to run a small business, environmental sustainability — these issues are all decided at the state and local level”, said Branch founder and CEO Walter Ley. “State and local politics are hugely important, but getting informed about these elections is a daunting process. Most people, especially young people, have a hard time knowing where to even get started.”
Branch was founded in Georgia in advance of the 2020 election cycle and has provided information in Georgia elections for the past three years. During Atlanta’s 2021 city elections, 10% of voters used Branch to prepare to vote.
Today, Branch has announced its expansion into Virginia for the 2023 primary election. Through the Branch website, www.branch.vote, voters can now access information about candidates, their platforms, and important ballot measures in a simple, nonpartisan format. The website is designed to be easy to use, even for voters who may be new to the process. It’s even mobile-friendly for voters on the go.
“We’re incredibly excited to be providing this as a resource to Virginians this year. The support we’ve already received from students across the state has already been incredibly validating,” Ley added.
The company’s expansion into Virginia is part of a two year plan to expand into ten of the most important swing states throughout the country.
Early voting for Virginia’s primary election runs until June 17th. Election day is June 20th. For more information about Branch and their coverage of the Virginia 2023 primary election, visit their website at www.branch.vote.