Debra Cleaver

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Debra Cleaver is an American nonprofit executive who founded and VoteAmerica.[1][2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Cleaver attended Pomona College, majoring in anthropology with a psychology minor.[4] She was active in LGBTQ activism on campus and graduated in 1999.[5] After graduation, she participated in the startup accelerator Y Combinator.[4]


Cleaver's interest in politics began following the 2000 United States presidential election, when she witnessed the closeness of the Florida recount.[1] She worked day jobs in technology but volunteered in politics on the side.[1] In the 2004 election, she worked with Swing The State, an online organization that encouraged voter registration in swing states.[1] In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles to work for Myspace.[1]

She has advocated for voting by mail since 2008.[6] For the 2008 election, she founded Long Distance Voter, a website that explained absentee voting requirements.[1] By November 2008, it was receiving half a million visitors without spending any money on marketing.[1]

In 2015, she received a funding grant from the Knight Foundation, and as the organization's operations expanded into voter registration, she renamed it For the 2016 election, the site received 6.5 million visitors and helped register approximately 600,000 voters.[1]

In August 2019,'s board fired Cleaver and replaced her with a board member.[3] Reporting by Vox described it as due to tensions over Cleaver's management of the organization and harsh style of leadership.[3] The move was highly contentious, and resulted in the withdrawal of $4 million in donor commitments and scuttled partnerships with many of the organization's major donors.[3] A group of donors claiming to represent 60 percent of's funding wrote to the board and threatened to withdraw their support if her firing was not explained.[3]

Cleaver subsequently founded VoteAmerica, another voter mobilization project that focused on increasing turnout among unlikely voters, especially by mail-in votes, during the 2020 general election.[3] In 2020, Cleaver applied an idea from her previous work to assist voters with absentee ballot requests in states without online request forms, by creating an online portal through VoteAmerica to help voters fax their requests.[7]

Cleaver has been a regular commentator on election issues,[8] including to debunk conspiracy theories,[9] to discuss the voter registration process[10][11] and challenges for voter registration,[12] as well as ways to increase voter turnout.[13][14]

In 2021, VoteAmerica sued the state of Georgia over its voter ID law.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Although the organizations she has founded are non-partisan, Cleaver's personal politics are liberal.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Thorpe, JR (March 7, 2017). "Debra Cleaver, Founder Of, Is Making Women's History Now". Bustle. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  2. ^ Hatmaker, Taylor (May 13, 2020). " founder launches VoteAmerica, a nonprofit using tech tools to help Americans vote by mail". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Schleifer, Theodore (April 28, 2020). "One of America's key voting rights groups plunged into chaos when it was needed most". Vox. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d Norwood, Robyn (April 26, 2021). "Innovator Debra Cleaver '99 Wants Voting To Be Easy". Pomona College. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
  5. ^ "2019 Blaisdell Distinguished Alumni Award Winners". Pomona College. May 8, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Mark (August 8, 2020). "Voting by mail is secure, but it has a seriously low-tech downside: your signature". Fast Company. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  7. ^ Corasaniti, Nick (June 30, 2020). "Can't Request an Absentee Ballot Online? This Group Wants to Help". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  8. ^ Panetta, Grace (May 12, 2020). "More Americans than ever are expected to vote by mail this year, which means we probably won't know who won the 2020 presidential race until days after election night". Insider. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  9. ^ Cohen, Li (January 15, 2021). "6 conspiracy theories about the 2020 election – debunked". CBS News. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  10. ^ Bellow, Noelle (November 2, 2020). "How to register to vote on Election Day". KRON4. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  11. ^ Cleary, Luke (November 2, 2020). "Still haven't registered to vote? Iowa and Illinois offer Election Day registration". WQAD8. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  12. ^ Buergin, Miles (November 2, 2020). "More than 433,000 Nevadans are not registered to vote. Here's why". NBC4. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  13. ^ Singer, Natasha (November 4, 2018). "Did You Vote? Now Your Friends May Know (and Nag You)". The New York Times. Retrieved June 22, 2021.
  14. ^ "Debra Cleaver on Increasing Voter Turnout". Washington Journal. C-SPAN. November 6, 2018. Retrieved June 22, 2021.

External links[edit]