Young volunteers for NextGen America are successfully registering Millennials at the Pima County College and UofA campuses in Tucson, working to increase the level of voting by this huge voter bloc.
“If we get out the vote it will lead to more progressive wins. We need to increase the awful statistic of young people voting on an average of 23%,” said Maria Eller, a NextGen volunteer speaking at a recent Indivisible and Strong Meeting meeting.
“We have the most numbers. This is our chance to get them out to vote, and have a stage to voice what we care about by voting.”
Wins so far:
- NextGen has registered 15,348 young voters nationwide since it hit the ground in the spring.
- For student welcome week in Tucson, the total voter registration at Pima Community College is 201 and at the UofA is 1,316.
- Statewide the organization is on over 23 college campuses.
- For more statistics see Nextgenamerica.org/insider
NextGen Rising aims to register, motivate, and turn out more than 250,000 young people to vote. Across 11 states, young voters will help progressives flip Congress, win Governor’s races, and take back state legislatures, according to its website. “We are the key to achieving progressive victories in 2018,” says the organization founded by Tom Steyer, a philanthropist, environmentalist, and liberal activist.
Eller is an organizer at the Pima County College campuses downtown at 1255 N Stone Ave. and on the west side at 2202 W Anklam Rd. She works to start conversations with students from 10 am to 2 pm, and has a colleague who is working the UofA Campus. Eller is looking for other young people to volunteer.
Volunteers ask students “Are you registered to vote at your current address?” or “Have you updated your voter registration?” They follow up with “Do you get your ballot in the mail?”
“We engage them by having conversations about what they care about. If we talk to them and try to relate to what impacts them, we have a much more productive conversation.”
“Even though it seems hard, it’s not. We’re meeting them where they are, we are getting these voter registrations en masse and will work really hard to get them out to the polls. I really do believe we’ll see a difference in November,” she says.
Why Millennials don’t vote
“No political parties or organizations have tried to reach out to us, we’re the first group to be having these conversations to go and vote,” Eller says.
“We have a horrible turnout rate because we never had civics in school, and civic literacy of my generation is extremely low,” she says. “We never understood the importance of the vote or what that leads to. We don’t see how the system impacts us.”
Some young people need an explanation about what registering to vote is. Others are skeptical and say, “I don’t believe in voting.” Eller says their rationale is that they are Libertarian and don’t want to be part of the system or are extremely disillusioned by the last presidential election. “They lack faith in the voting system,” she said. Some students don’t want the government to have their contact information, and they need to learn that it already has that data.
Connecting with young voters
People aged 18 to 35 years care more about issues than politics and political parties. Two issues that most resonate with Millennials are the cost of education and access to healthcare.
Democrats need to meet young voters in places they go to, such as concerts at Hotel Congress, or a candidate event at a local brewery. “They don’t think that voting or being politically active is important to them,” Eller said. “We have to go to them or make them feel more welcome in these spaces. This is how we change their culture.”
NextGen volunteers follow up by text, as opposed to calling them. “We’re not the best at answering our phones,” she says. Accordingly, they organize digitally with Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Canvassing young voters can be tricky because they live in dorms and apartments, “or they are like me where I’ve moved to three different places in the last year and a half.” She still thinks canvassing is effective.
Volunteers encourage Millennials to get on the permanent early voting lists, because they, like others, are so much more likely to vote as a result.
“In Arizona, we’ve seen an 8.2% increase in young people who were registered,” she said. I have a lot of hope and optimism.”