LAKEWOOD, Ohio — Hillary Clinton joked on Thursday that she wanted people to develop a game called “Pokémon Go to the Polls.” Some of her young volunteers turned her questionable pun into reality this weekend, using the viral app to register new voters in Lakewood, a suburb of Cleveland.
The Nintendo game — which prompts users to go outside and capture Pokémon on their phone screens in public places — just debuted a few weeks ago, but already has more than 20 million users. (The game has also been cited as a cause of traffic accidents, as users focus on their phones instead of the roads.)
Clinton’s young volunteers took notice of the game and brainstormed how they could use it to help her in the battleground state of Ohio. “Everyone was obsessed with it,” said Tim Holman, a 19-year-old who works in the campaign’s Shaker Heights office.
They decided to hold their event in Madison Park across the street from Grace Lutheran Church, because both places are PokéStops, where users can pick up Pokéballs (used to capture the Pokémon), potions and other useful stuff.
The Clinton campaign set up extra “lure modules” at the church and the park to attract more Pokémon — and potential Clinton supporters — to the area. “They come to us. This is a Pokémon beacon,” Holman said.
About 15 minutes after the event started, three grade-school boys immediately showed up, each playing “Pokémon Go” on his parents’ phone. They screamed in delight as they caught a Meowth, a Weedle and an Eevee — different kinds of Pokémon that they had never encountered before.
Soon, the boys had caught all the Pokémon on offer. “You have to walk around like you’re a frustrated monkey,” an 8-year-old boy advised his older friend. The pair took off to hunt more Pokémon in the park.
A few paces away, Zachary Hernandez, a Clinton volunteer who came up with the idea of the Pokémon event, was registering two young people to vote. Jonny Latsko, 18, and his older sister, Ellen, 21, read about the Pokémon event on Tumblr and wanted to check it out. They are both at level 9 of the game, while Hernandez is at level 12.
Both siblings plan to vote for Clinton in the fall and thought the event was a cool idea. But Jonny said he thought Clinton’s Pokémon joke was kind of strange. “I’m skeptical of that kind of politics, like, ‘I’m cool with the kids, watch me nae nae,’” he said, referencing the 2015 song.
Donald Trump also joined the “Pokémon Go” party, releasing a “Pokémon Go” themed online attack ad against Clinton that shows a Pokéball capturing an image of Clinton called “Crooked Hillary.” The stage of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, where Trump will accept his party’s nomination Thursday at the Republican National Convention, is also a Pokémon gym.