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Leon Kaye headshot

Tech Startup Provides Barbers the Kits They Need to Boost Voter Turnout

This startup has been working with barber shops and Shape Up the Vote to boost voter turnout by making registration both simple and safe.
By Leon Kaye
Voter Turnout

As of press time, well over 50 million Americans have already cast their ballots for next week's presidential election. But despite that impressive number, Election Day could still become Election Week, based on voter turnout. To that end, a next-gen startup has been partnering with an old-school industry to get out the vote.

Based in Washington, D.C., theCut says it is doing its part to boost voter turnout. The mobile barbering app has been working with barber shops as well as the coalition Shape Up the Vote by sending voter registration kits to barbers across the states to make the voter registration process simple.

theCut Co-founders Kush Patel and Obi Omile Jr. are trying to boost voter turnout
theCut Co-founders Kush Patel (L) and Obi Omile Jr. (R).

The effort makes sense — after all, barber shops have long been community gathering places to catch up and banter about the latest shenanigans in sports, entertainment and, of course, politics. The founders of theCut realized they had a captive audience, with more than 70,000 barbers, 2 million-plus users and 15 million or so appointments made through the app. In addition, such attempts to boost voter turnout can help counter ongoing voter suppression tactics that continue to fester across the U.S.

"Voting is incredibly important. Black people haven't always had the right to vote, so everyone who is capable should go out and exercise that right as often as they can,” said Obi Omile Jr., co-founder and CEO of theCut, who himself is Black. “I'm excited and proud that we're able to work with Shape Up the Vote to get more people of color registered to vote."

At least one of the candidates realized barber shops show promise as venues to harvest votes during an election that could tighten as Nov. 3 nears. Last month, Joe Biden’s presidential campaign signed on for three ads that were filmed in a Durham, N.C. barber shop.

"We partnered with Shape Up the Vote because barbershops have always been trusted spaces of conversations for people of color. At the same time, barbers are trusted leaders in black and brown communities and barbershops are places where people from all walks of life will eventually come visit,” added Omile.

Neighborhood barber shops have long served as pillars of local communities, but this year they have provided a safe space allowing citizens to exercise a right continually under attack — gaining access to the ballot box.

Shape Up The Vote and theCut have been distributing voter registration kits like these
Shape Up The Vote and theCut have been distributing voter registration kits like these.

Image credits: theCut

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye