Activist groups target young voters for midterm election

As the midterm elections approach, activist organizations like NextGen America are focused on increasing voter registration and turnout among young people.

Two and a half months after the Parkland’s shooting, Florida experienced an eight percentage point gain in youth voter registration, according to TargetSmart. In the August primaries, young people 18 to 25 turned out to vote in higher numbers than in 2014. However, the question is whether or not that group will show up Nov. 6.

NextGen America spokeswoman Maya Humes said the environmental and political advocacy nonprofit has made strides in reaching young people.

“We have a team of over 120 people across the state,” Humes said. “We reached 45 college campuses, meeting young people where they are and hosting events to attract students.”

According to Humes, the Florida chapter has registered 50,371 young voters for the upcoming election. In addition, she said NextGen representatives have gotten about 30,000 “Pledge to Vote” cards where voters state they’re voting in November and which issues they’re voting for.

The group believes young people are most interested in five issues: the cost of college, affordable healthcare, climate change, gun safety and racial justice. Climate change is a particularly important issue in Florida, she said, because of hurricane propensity, sea level rise, pollution and environmental degradation.

“We make sure we’re talking to them about issues, not the Republican/Democratic parties,” Humes said. “We talk to young voters about gun violence and how to end it. We tell them to vote for a leader who will pass policies that make it harder to obtain guns.”

According to the Florida Division of Elections website, overall voter turnout during the primaries in 2014 was 18 percent versus 27 percent in 2018. TargetSmart President Tom Bonier said in a statement in September that a new analysis shows that not only are 18 to 29-year-olds registering at a higher rate since Parkland, they are also voting at an increased rate.

“Election turnout amongst youth voters has increased by an average of four percent nationwide in 2018 primary elections compared to 2014 primary elections,” he said, “and has more than doubled in some key battleground states compared to 2014.”

Humes said that precincts near Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens saw a turnout increase of 150 percent. Voting increased ten times since 2014 in precincts near the University of Florida. She said they expect the same behavior for these elections.

Maria Alonzo, a 22-year-old student at Florida International University, said that she will be voting on Nov. 6.

“I think it’s important to vote for the people and issues that you believe in,” she said. “I’m voting for a candidate that represents what I believe in. I don’t want to keep hearing about school shootings because of lack of proper gun control, for example, so I want to make sure that I help give the power to make changes to the right people.”

FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this story stated the incorrect number of voters NextGen had registered. It is 50,371, not 5,371. In addition, the “Pledge to Vote” cards are separate from the registration drives. Updated Oct. 30 at 2:31 p.m. 

An earlier version of this story contained a quote that is no longer thought to be accurate. Updated Nov. 1 at 7:32 p.m.