The get-out-the-vote effort in Georgia’s senatorial run-off today is getting a boost from more than 70 artists who’ve signed up to participate in #iVoted Festival Georgia, an eight-and-a-half hour livestream. The webcast, designed as a reward for Georgians who provide evidence they’ve cast ballots in the crucial election, will include performances by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, the Revivalists, Drive-By Truckers and Shakey Graves.
Others scheduled to show up in the three-“stage” feed include Arrested Development, Greensky Bluegrass, the B-52s’ Kate Pierson, Living Colour, Jukebox the Ghost and members of Umphrey’s McGee and Lake Street Dive. RSVP links and a full schedule for the lengthy show — which is being hosted by one of the foremost platforms to have ratcheted up the livestream experience in 2020, Mandolin — can be found here.
The Georgia-targeted livestream follows an interesting #iVoted Festival that went down for the national election Nov. 3 and included artists from Billie Eilish to Jeff Tweedy, also serving as an incentive to music fans to hit the polls. That one involved 450 performers for what iVoted calls “the largest digital concert in history.”
“I was planing on taking the rest of the year off and chilling,” iVoted head Emily White tells Variety, “but we had amazing volunteers who wanted to do the same thing for Georgia.
The price of admission for the show? Submitting a selfie from outside a polling place or post office, or with a ballot (one that hasn’t been filled out, lest it look like the nonpartisan platform is endorsing candidates). Technically, the barriers to entry are not all that restrictive: Out-of-state or under-18 music fans are also allowed to tune in without taking part in the Georgia vote — and organizers admit that political laws actually prohibit non-voters from being barred. But the principle of the thing stands.
The “festival” gets underway at 1 p.m. ET and continues through 9:35 p.m., at which point the last voters waiting in line should have shuffled through their polling places and be home riveted to news coverage of returns coming in.
White says artists were solicited for the webcast by reaching out for data about which acts were particularly regionally popular in Georgia, with an eye toward being inclusive of hip-hop, gospel, rock and an assortment of genres.
“We’ve had a few thousand RSVPs so far,” White said on Monday afternoon, saying she expected that total to at least double by Tuesday morning, “and we’re thrilled about that.” She said the November national event had about 20,000 voter/music fans show proof of voting to tune in to that livestream.
She admits there was a lot of angst around the elections, in November and now, and working on this effort “has been the best distraction ever for me. Even during the primaries or general election, through all the noise, negativity and hate, it’s been really inspiring just to focus on turnout and know we’re having an impact and we can do something.”
White says that, as a music pro, whenever prospective or real voter turnout numbers are brought up, she thinks in terms of venue sizes, and that was part of the impetus for forming iVoted.
“The 2016 presidential election was decided by, say, 22,000 votes in Wisconsin,” she says. “22,000 votes can change an election. And it was 10,000 people deciding Michigan. Well, that’s the size of a basketball arena. I thought, why don’t we put together some sort of voter turnout drive with the hope of getting an extra sports arena’s worth of people to turn out? But I think that way at all levels of voting. I live in Brooklyn, and often our local elections are decided by the size of the Music Hall in Williamsburg, or the Troubadour.”
For the general election, iVoted had a few hundred volunteers. For the Georgia effort, it’s a team of 30, “with 92% being women or binary, people of color, or LGBTQ+.” White says they work doubly hard, as “we don’t always get the funding that our (mostly) male counterparts are getting.”
White knows the eyes of the world are on Georgia at a historically unprecedented level for a runoff. “Early voter turnout is high and people are excited,” she says. “We hope they’re just as excited in 2022 or ’24 and don’t get sick of it.”
For anyone who might miss a favorite act on today’s lineup because they’re, well, voting, White says not to worry. “If anyone is stuck in line, we’re repeating all the sets for 24 hours afterward.”