If New Era Colorado’s bus looks like a cross between a buttoned-up political rally and a raucous rock band’s ride, then founder Steve Fenberg is equal parts roadie, manager, and talking head. He started the nonprofit four years ago to get the millennial generation—folks born between 1978 and 2000—involved in politics. Since then, the group has scoured the state to find new voters with a variety of novel techniques, such as happy hours and offbeat candidate debates (including an American Idol–style vote among Boulder City Council prospects). During the 2008 election cycle, New Era Colorado tallied nearly 12,000 voter registrations in Colorado and says more than 85 percent of those new voters showed up to the polls on Election Day.
Impressive numbers for a fledgling group, but New Era Colorado was just getting started. It has also focused on drafting legislation for issues that impact young voters, like renters’ rights and election reform. Last year, its online voter registration bill passed the Senate—unanimously. And the group hopes to keep the momentum going through the November election and beyond. “The 2008 election was kind of a gateway drug for new voters,” Fenberg says. “2010 is really an opportunity to become engaged.”