On the night of Philadelphia’s general municipal election in 2015—after we all cast our own votes—The Citizen piled into a van and drove to a South Philadelphia polling center, where at approximately 6:30 p.m. we greeted Bridget Conroy-Varnis with a $10,000 check. Conroy-Varnis, a school crossing guard, was the winner in our inaugural Voting Lottery, in which we promised one random voter at one random polling place the chance for a cash payout just for doing their civic duty. It was a desperate ploy for desperate times, an experiment in how to increase voting in a city with desperately low turnout.
As we’ve reported before, the ploy worked: Of the people who knew about the lottery, five percent more turned out to vote—which, if every voter in the city had known, would have amounted to 50,000 additional votes cast in an election with only about 25 percent turnout.
On Wednesday, the BBC reported on our voting lottery, along with others around the country, as part of a radio program called “People Fixing The World.” Listen below: