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Rideshare apps aim to increase voter turnout with free rides on Election Day

Connor Braaten drives for both Lyft and Uber applies logos to his front windsheild to better identify himself to riders. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

Rideshare services plan to offer free or reduced transportation to the polls on Election Day in hopes of increasing voter turnout.

Uber announced plans last week to partner with #VoteTogether and Democracy Works to provide a free ride to the polls Nov. 6. Lyft said in a press release rides will be half off and free to underserved communities with a promo code.

North Dakota voter turnout during the 2016 election was nearly identical to the national average at around 60 percent of the eligible voting population, a study from Fair Vote said. Minnesota saw the largest voter turnout in the country during the 2016 election, with about 74 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

A study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) shows transportation is a major barrier for voting and was the reason that about 15 million people didn't vote during the 2016 election. A survey on youth voting said 29 percent cited transportation as a reason they didn't vote, and 15 percent said it was a major factor.

Lyft is partnering with local Urban League affiliates and Voto Latino to give free rides to underserved communities because the CIRCLE study showed a sharp racial disparity in the number of voters who were deterred because of transportation issues.

A local nonprofit, the Global Friends Coalition, which helps New Americans, is hosting events Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 in Grand Forks to provide information about voting and citizenship. The New Flavors Food Truck will give out free food on Election Day to customers with a voter sticker, the website said.

Minnesota allows voters to register on Election Day when they go to vote, and North Dakota is the only state without voter registration. Polling location is listed on both secretary of state's websites.

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