The pain of losing a child to gun violence may be unimaginable, but the parents of Joaquin Oliver wanted every potential voter in the U.S. to imagine something very different. They wanted people to hear what Joaquin, killed at age 17 in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings in Parkland, Florida, would say about the election if he’d had the chance.
So Change the Ref brought Joaquin back to life via AI, the same video technology used to create deepfakes. In the powerful film, the teen is angry that so little has been done to protect people from gun violence.
The campaign is powered by simple math. The 2016 election was decided by 10,704 votes in Michigan, 27,202 in Nevada and 2,736 in New Hampshire. Weighing those against the 40,000 lives lost each year to guns demonstrates the power even a small number of voters can have.
The campaign guided people to unfinishedvotes.com. Once they selected the name of someone who had been killed, the experience of the site changed to reveal more about that person’s life. And it helped people register to vote, urging them to put more gun-safety advocates in office.
Our judges got chills every time they watched and goosebumps from its impact, including 2.4 million views in 24 hours after launch, global broadcast news coverage and a shout-out from President Joe Biden. Even more gratifying? Almost 1,300 pro-gun-sense politicians won elections. And in February, President Biden demanded commonsense gun law reforms that might have saved Joaquin’s life.