An organization originally designed to promote progressive causes like universal and affordable health care, green energy infrastructure, inclusion, and reducing income inequality, Nextgen America intensified its mission in 2018 to register and promote increased voter turnout among as many of the nation’s millennial population (ages 18 to 35) as possible in 11 states (Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin.)
Founded by Tom Steyer, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who has been in the news for launching ads calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump, NextGen recognizes that millennial turnout has lagged behind other voting groups in election after election and their goal is to actively alter that trajectory this cycle and in future ones. Already, as of October 25, 2018, they have registered 253, 560 new millennial voters in the 11 states they are focused on with 7,133 volunteers. They are doing this by canvassing universities and colleges, hosting and promoting events such as movie screenings and petting zoos, conducting an extensive social media grassroots and online campaign, and walking door to door. Mostly focused on statewide and congressional candidates, the organization is also working its way to assisting more local candidates who are running for the state legislature.
As mentioned earlier, Arizona has a NextGen operation. They have three main offices. They are in Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff. Collectively, the 848 active volunteers have helped register 21, 679 millennial voters as of October 25, 2018. Jalakoi Solomon is the state director for NextGen Arizona and she was gracious to interview with Blog for Arizona and answer questions about NextGen and their goals. The questions and responses are below:
In terms of active citizenship, what is the purpose of NextGen?
“We are running the largest youth vote program in history, making sure that the 18 to 35 voting bloc has access to all the information they need to turn out and vote. We started working in Arizona in March and will be continuing past the election. So far NextGen Arizona has had over 900 volunteers work with us to register over 21,000 new voters since March.”
In terms of active citizenship, what are three objectives in promoting active citizenship among the peoples you are trying to reach?
1)“Increasing turnout. 2) Making sure every young person is registered 3) Civic engagement: holding people accountable and having people involved and informed in the voting process.”
What are at least five activities your organization is conducting to accomplish the answers to questions one and two?
“ We have gone canvassing door to door, sent thousands of text messages, are running digital ads, are hosting a lot of getting out the vote events like a petting zoo and movie screening with voter registration.”
What is the leadership structure of NextGen Arizona?
“I am the state director and we have an Organizing Director, Media Manager, Data Manager, and an Operations Manager.”
Is your organization targeting specific national, state, and local races in Arizona or is it devoting resources to all races?
“We are working across the state from Flagstaff to Yuma at all the universities and community colleges. Specifically, we are focused on the Senate, Governor, AG, and CDs 1, 2, and 9 races. We also strategically overlap our program with the Legislative District (LD) candidates that could be a tipping point.”
Please describe the impact you see your organization has had so far in this election cycle and please note specific results/outcomes that have been achieved.
“We have registered over 21,000 new voters. In Flagstaff LD 6 we have registered more voters than the difference between the winner and loser in the last election there. We have knocked on over 65,000 doors and sent over 40,000 text messages, reaching out to young people, elevating their voices, and making sure they have a plan to vote this November.”
What projections/electoral outcomes can you reasonably state will occur thanks to the impact of your organization and please explain why.
“If progressives win in November, they will know that it’s because of the youth vote. Young voters 18-35 now make up the largest voting block in Arizona (greater than 65+) and with this changing electorate, we have the power. We will make all the difference as long as we vote.”
To what extent has NextGen coordinated/mingled with March for Your Lives, Red for Ed, Moms Demanding Action, and other progressive organizations?
“We have great relationships and have partnered with March for our Lives through our program, Our Lives Our Vote, to register high school students to vote”
If there is to be a new forward direction for this country, the millennial group has to take an active part in shaping it. That engagement starts with registering and turning out to vote. If they do not in significant numbers, the forces of conservative reaction and looking back to a fictitious “Leave it to Beaver” world will likely prevail again. Thankfully, organizations like NextGen America and their branches in these 11 states including the one in Arizona are working hard and well in increasing millennial turnout for this and future elections.