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Heather Smith
Heather Smith is president of Rock the Vote, which seeks to engage and build political power for young people in our country. Founded twenty-three years ago at the intersection of popular culture and politics, Rock the Vote has registered more than five million young people to vote and has become a trusted source of information for young people about registering to vote and casting a ballot. Rock the Vote uses music, popular culture, new technologies and grassroots organizing to motivate and mobilize young people in our country to participate in every election, with the goal of seizing the power of the youth vote to create political and social change. Visit for more information.

Under Smith's leadership, Rock the Vote built new tools and technologies and refined best practices for the continued engagement of young voters, setting the highest voter registration records in both midterm and presidential elections in the organization's history.

Prior to Rock the Vote, Smith founded and directed Young Voter Strategies, a nonpartisan project in partnership with The Graduate School of Political Management at The George Washington University with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Young Voter Strategies provided the general public, political parties, candidates, consultants and non-profits with data and research on the youth vote as well as best practices to effectively mobilize young people.

In 2004, Smith served as national field director for the Student PIRG’s New Voters Project, the largest nonpartisan grassroots effort ever undertaken to register and mobilize young voters. Prior to her work at the New Voters Project, Smith was an organizing director for Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing in Boston.

Smith has served as a youth vote expert appearing on MSNBC, CBS ‘Washington Unplugged,’ Fox News, and CNN, in addition to writing for and being quoted in publications such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, National Journal, The Hill, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Nation, The Washington Post, POLITICO, The Atlantic, and more.

Smith received a B.A. with honors in Economics and Public Policy from Duke University. In 2006, Smith was named one of Campaign & Elections magazine’s Rising Stars for her work with young voters. She was also named one of Esquire Magazine’s Best and Brightest of 2007. Smith serves on the national advisory board for Duke University’s DukeEngage program. And recently published the afterword for Electoral Dysfunction, the companion book to the documentary hosted by Mo Rocca.

Entries by Heather Smith

What Clinton, Christie, Biden, Cruz & Co. Can Learn From 2013

(3) Comments | Posted November 7, 2013 | 11:02 AM

Tuesday night's election results were a lot to take in -- especially if you're one of the Beltway creatures still clinging to low expectations for the political participation of Millennials.

Spoiler alert: Young voter turnout in Virginia went up, a lot.

We've grown accustomed to today's generation of young people...

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The March for Innovation

(7) Comments | Posted May 22, 2013 | 6:41 PM

The youth voter turnout in recent years has demonstrated the movement of young voters who cannot be ignored. Young people in this country are taking a stand for the issues that matter to them. As an organization that helps build political power for young American voters, we have experienced firsthand...

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Outdated and Failing: Modernizing Our Voting System for the Rising Electorate

(5) Comments | Posted June 8, 2011 | 11:56 AM

Day after day, from college campuses to high school classrooms, we hear stories about needless bureaucratic barriers that prevent young people from voting. For young Americans, the greatest barrier to participation is the outdated process itself. Our complicated registration process varies state-by-state, and our country's antiquated, paper-based electoral system is...

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The 9/11 Generation Heals, Proves Its Patriotism

(2) Comments | Posted May 3, 2011 | 6:24 PM

In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the nation's young people have been accused of everything from apathy in 2004 to rebuilding the face of the country's electorate in 2008 to sitting out the 2010 midterms due to a fickle "Enthusiasm Gap" when the process of governing got...

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A Call for Civics in Our Classrooms

(6) Comments | Posted March 23, 2011 | 11:40 AM

Think back to the day you turned 16 and got your driver's license, especially that picture of you with your trendy haircut, greasy forehead and brace-covered teeth. Flash forward five years to the time you bought your first beer at 21, by which point you thankfully had learned to brush...

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How the War on Young Voters Is Deteriorating Our Democracy

(38) Comments | Posted March 7, 2011 | 9:02 AM

Is there anything more fundamental to our democracy and country than the right to vote? Should we not protect and value this right, and work hard to ensure that all Americans ages 18 and older are able to participate without undue burden?

I watch people in the Middle East...

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War on Voting: Wisconsin Fights From the Front Lines

(13) Comments | Posted February 25, 2011 | 1:48 PM

What if politicians could take away your voting rights just because they can't agree?

That's essentially what's happening in Wisconsin right now, where a heated debate over the state's budget and the rights of public employees has turned voting rights into a political volleyball between Republicans...

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Rock the Vote Featured Artist: The Belle Brigade

(0) Comments | Posted February 18, 2011 | 4:45 PM

Each month Rock the Vote introduces our community to socially-conscious artists who are making music that inspire others and using their microphones to promote civic engagement.

Meet The Belle Brigade, who talk to us about what the right to vote means to them and the change they'd like...

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Rock the Vote Featured Artist: Crash Kings

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2011 | 2:19 PM

Each month Rock the Vote introduces our community to socially-conscious artists who are making music that inspire others and using their microphones to promote civic engagement.

Meet the Crash Kings, whose bassist Mike Beliveau talks to us about what the right to vote means to him and...

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The Rally of a Generation

(2) Comments | Posted October 27, 2010 | 4:50 PM

Only one true winner will emerge from the upcoming comedic battle between fear and sanity: our democracy.

The Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally held this Saturday, October 30th, will serve not only as the country's largest public service announcement for the November 2nd midterm elections, but...

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Trick or Vote: Young People Canvas in Costume to Bolster Turnout

(0) Comments | Posted October 26, 2010 | 5:09 PM

If Halloween has taught us anything, it's that face-to-face interaction is the best way to ask strangers for candy. This also happens to be true for getting someone out to vote, and given that October 31 is just two days before the election, Halloween and voter canvassing go together like...

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Share This! Young People Rally Peers to Get Out the Vote

(4) Comments | Posted October 18, 2010 | 10:11 AM

Plenty of people have told us about how young people feel this election cycle. We face a so-called "enthusiasm gap," the media says. We're the driving force that will make the difference, President Obama says. We're furious with the system and want change, Republican leaders say.

Well, let's speak for...

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Courting Young Voters 101: Candidates Shouldn't Bank on Obama to Save Them

(0) Comments | Posted September 28, 2010 | 12:32 PM

If you went on an awesome date, but didn't receive a follow up text message asking for a second one until a few weeks later, chances are you'd soon be smooching someone else.

It's entirely possible that the students at the University of Wisconsin will have a similar reaction...

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NEW DATA: Young Voters Battle Cynicism, But Still Plan to Participate in 2010

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2010 | 5:39 PM

It's not 2008. There's no presidential race to unite the country's focus and galvanize sweeping momentum. If you asked a young person how he or she feels heading into the midterm elections, you'd probably still hear the traces of optimism that characterized that historic election. This time, however, the response...

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9/11: Remembering the Fallen & Building a Generation's Future

(2) Comments | Posted September 11, 2010 | 10:15 AM

Today we reflect on the terrorist attack that shook the country and shaped our generation's future. Amid a fury of debate over whether a mosque should be built at Ground Zero or whether a pastor in Florida has the right to burn a Koran, we can't lose sight of what...

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New 'Democracy Class' Brings Civics Education to High Schools Nationwide

(2) Comments | Posted August 30, 2010 | 7:55 PM

As schools start this fall, Rock the Vote wants every student to have a new favorite subject - Democracy Class. The free and non-partisan class taught by Rock the Vote staff and volunteers teaches students about the history of voting, the connection between issues they care about and...

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Is Colorado the New Iowa? Young People Closing Midterm "Enthusiasm Gap"

(1) Comments | Posted August 13, 2010 | 11:32 AM

According to the news this week, the midterm elections will be characterized as any one of the following: The Economist predicts a disappointed indictment of President Obama by the left; the Washington Post warns that it will be a non sequitur speed bump that will have...

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Midterm Election Alert: Two Months Left to Mobilize Before Registration Deadlines

(0) Comments | Posted August 3, 2010 | 12:10 PM

We may still have summer on our minds, but today we are two months away from the first voter registration deadlines of the 2010 midterm election cycle.

While we're having plenty of fun at August's festivals and street fairs, Team Rock The Vote is mixing civics with our last moments...

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A First Glimpse at November's Fireworks

(1) Comments | Posted July 5, 2010 | 3:10 PM

For the millennial generation, this 4th of July weekend is about more than barbecues, fireworks, and celebrating America's 234th year of independence. For them, the biggest generation in American history, this 4th of July marks the beginning of a new era, a new decade of civic engagement.


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Young Voters Among First to Benefit from Health Care Legislation [VIDEO]

(2) Comments | Posted May 12, 2010 | 9:26 AM

While many of the rights established by Congress' passage of health care legislation will get phased in over time, young people who will vote in November's critical midterm elections will actually begin to benefit from some provisions now, in particular the ability to remain on their parents' insurance plans until...

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