November 5, 2007 Alfred Branch Jr.
By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen
HeadCount, the ambitious volunteer-run voter registration organization that registered nearly 50,000 voters in 2004 through alliances with the Dave Matthews Band and other artists, has plans to stage voter registration drives at more than 500 concerts over the next year with a goal of registering 200,000 new voters. HeadCount will be the only national organization to stage voter registration at concerts on a large scale in 2008 employing registration methods it has tested and perfected over the last three years.
Virginia McEnerney, the former vice president of Corporate Relations at Time Warner Inc., has been named the first full-time executive director of the non-profit organization, which to this point had been run entirely by volunteers. Dave Matthews Band, the Allman Brothers Band, and members of Phish and the Grateful Dead continue to be aligned with HeadCount, along with new artists such as O.A.R.
“What HeadCount has accomplished to this point is nothing short of remarkable,” McEnerney said in a statement. She spent 10 years with Time Warner before leaving the company in 2005 to become an independent consultant to non-profit organizations. “I believe we are poised to step from being an entirely grassroots operation, to becoming a nationwide force and spreading participation in democracy to an even broader audience.”
HeadCount is looking for volunteers to join the street teams that register voters at concerts, and for the first time, some will be eligible for modest, performance-based stipends, marking another important step in organization’s evolution.
The volunteer network will form street teams in approximately 50 U.S. cities, each working with affiliated bands and promoters to set up voter registration tables at concerts. The organization will also send volunteers on the road with major artists, an approach that helped register over 12,000 new voters on the Dave Matthews Band tour in 2004 – an all-time record for a single concert tour.
In addition, HeadCount has invested in state-of-the-art voter registration software and expects to register tens of thousands of voters through its website. This activity will be buttressed by extensive “get-out-the-vote” activity, working directly with artists to encourage people of all ages to head to the polls in 2008.
“If we don’t protect democracy today, there won’t be a democracy to protect in a few years,” said former Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, a member of HeadCount’s board of directors, in a statement. “I think for the younger folks this is particularly important, because the decisions we make will largely affect the rest of their lives.”
Marc Brownstein, bass player for The Disco Biscuits, continues to serve as HeadCount’s co-chair. “This was something we started as a dream, just a crazy idea that we believed we could pull off,” Brownstein said in a statement. He founded the organization with longtime friend Andy Bernstein, author of a series of books about the group Phish. “Now it’s almost four years later, and we are in it for the long-term. We hope HeadCount leaves a permanent imprint on the live music community, forever getting fans more engaged in the political system and democracy itself.”