Seth Flaxman

Ashoka Fellow
New York, United States
Fellow Since 2013
My work: strengthening the fabric of American democracy by increasing electoral and citizen participation.

Check out this video of more on Seth's work:



Related TopicsCivic Engagement, Democracy & voting


This profile was prepared when Seth Flaxman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Seth founded Democracy Works to modernize the infrastructure of our democracy. As he puts it, nearly every activity we participate in—from applying to colleges to paying taxes to renting movies—has been at least facilitated by technology and the web. And yet how we vote has remained essentially the same since the 18th century. Democracy Works was born out of a simple insight: strengthening democracy begins with strengthening citizen participation and engagement, and that requires modernizing voting for the way we live. His idea is to integrate democracy more closely with our 21st century lives beginning with demystifying and simplifying the process of participating in democracy itself.

At the core of Democracy Works is a digital platform—TurboVote. org—that aims to simplify voting for every voter in the US. The initial focus is on voter registration and vote-by-mail. Democracy Works makes both as easy as renting a Netflix DVD, with the goal of keeping Americans registered and making sure they don’t miss any elections, from school board to presidential. The service can mail completed registration or vote by mail applications along with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes, send text and email reminders for all related deadlines or simply remind someone of their election calendar if they’re already registered and want to vote in person. Already Democracy Works has piloted the platform at more than 50 colleges and universities with first-time voters, and will begin pitching as a back-end digital infrastructure for local election boards across the United States.

Though the idea is built around a web platform and digital tools, the team is not wedded to one particular technology or approach. As it evolves, the platform could do anything from delivering information to helping citizens connect with elected officials. The larger idea is that our democracy is ripe for digital disruption, and that rather than waiting for our political system to change from the inside, we can use that disruption to begin changing it ourselves.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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