What messages encourage young South Africans to register to vote?
Widespread electoral participation is a foundational element of a healthy democracy and an important mechanism for voters to exercise policy making and public spending oversight. Existing work attributes low voter turnout in developing countries to poor voter knowledge of political processes or to disillusionment with flawed electoral processes. However, turnout often remains low and sometimes declines as democracy matures, despite voters having basic knowledge about, and trust in, electoral processes. This study considers a driver of participation not previously explored in developing countries – motivation to vote stemming from an appreciation of the value of the act. We examine the relative efficacy of informational messages about how, when, and where to vote; motivational messages about why voting is important; and a combination of both, on voter registration and turnout in a field experiment targeting 6,000 youth in Gauteng, South Africa. This project, conducted with South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Activate!, a network of youth leaders, and JPAL Africa, will produce actionable evidence to improve outreach, bolster turnout, and increase accountability in South Africa and similar developing countries.