New Era's Steve Fenberg pushes for new voter registration model

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From its original location at Colfax and York, New Era moved a handful of times before settling into its current space on Humboldt downtown. Organizers follow a literal open-door policy: In a two-story building decorated with action fliers and inspirational white boards, both constituents and stray cats stop in throughout the day. As the forthcoming presidential election approaches, the number of employees inside the building will expand to approximately twelve people, double its usual six.

Inside the headquarters' front conference room, behind a Mac laptop covered in stickers, Fenberg recounts some of New Era's greatest accomplishments to date: In 2010, one of New Era's intern classes drafted and passed a bill to facilitate online voter registration. In the less than two years since, 200,000 people have been registered to vote through the possibilities it enabled, Fenberg estimates. In 2011, the group came ahead by 200 votes in a Boulder campaign against Xcel energy to create a publicly run utility program.

Today, former employees and interns work for members of Congress in Washington, D.C. and for senators at the national and state levels. They're running for offices of their own. In the near future, New Era will branch from its Boulder and Denver hubs into Greeley, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Durango. In five years, Fenberg hopes the organization will have worked to cement a cohesive and user-friendly model for voter registration across the state.

But Fenberg's first year in business, still uncertain and unprepared, created his favorite memory of New Era to date: During the organization's annual retreat in the mountains, staff members asked interns if they had ever done anything political before (no) before eliciting their reasons for volunteering (because they had been asked). "Here were these people who had never done anything political in their entire lives, and the reason they started now was because we had asked them," Fenberg recalls. "We hear all this talk about how youth cannot be depended on at the polls, but all we have to do is ask."

Can you think of any other political activists we should profile? E-mail suggestions to [email protected].

More from our Politics archive: "Eleanor Dewey of Colorado Anti-Violence Program on the power of the (young) people."

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple

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