Rock the Vote, the largest non-profit and non-partisan organization in the United States building the political power for young people, is pleased to see young voters’ strong participation in yesterday’s midterm election resulting in an increase in the youth share of the electorate. Nationally, it is estimated that 9.9 million young people cast a ballot in 2014 (compared to initial estimates in 2010 that nearly 9 million voted). Moreover, turnout is estimated at 21.3%, compared to 20.4% from day-after preliminary analysis done in 2010 done by CIRCLE. Young people increased their share of the electorate to 13% up from 11% in 2010.
Rock the Vote worked with a number of partners to register nearly 700,000 voters ahead of the 2014 midterm election, nearly three times the number of voters registered in 2010. This year, young people’s share of the electorate was higher in states where the organization focused its efforts to engage the Millennial demographic, including 14% in Colorado, Florida, and Texas, and 18% in Wisconsin. High midterm participation rates were aided by the nearly 800,000 young people who took advantage of early or absentee voting, two pro-voting reforms that are credited with increasing participation among this demographic.
In a year when young people faced unprecedented voting rights challenges, lack of investment by candidate campaigns, and a consistently cynical narrative that turnout would be low, a full 40% of registrants were under the age of 30. Rock the Vote is committed to building on this momentum – through online and social media programs, in-person registration drives, strategic partnerships, and creative PSAs – to mobilize and empower more young people to participate in forthcoming election cycles.
“Our message to young people is clear: Millennials have the potential to wield tremendous political influence simply by turning out to the polls and making their voices heard on the issues they care about,” said Ashley Spillane, President of Rock the Vote. “Through a number of programs both online and in-person, we registered and turned out hundreds of thousands of young voters this election cycle. We did this by tapping into the most engaging voices in pop culture, but also through our cutting-edge registration technology and partnerships with the most innovative organizations in the country.”
In many parts of the country, young people faced new structural barriers to political participation and the most restrictive voting environment in decades. Over the last two years, 10 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have made an indelible impact on youth voter participation. In Tennessee, for instance, professors can use their university IDs to vote but college students are barred from doing the same. Voters in Texas can use a gun license to vote, but a student ID isn’t accepted. In North Carolina, early voting was curtailed and same day registration was eliminated. And in Arizona and Kansas efforts included requiring certain voters to provide proof of citizenship upon registering to vote.
To counter this pattern of discrimination, Rock the Vote continues to fight aggressively against restrictive voting laws that limit young people’s access to the polls – most notably in Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas – and advocate for a revitalized culture of voting that is relevant, authentic, and essential.
In addition, many politicians sent a clear message in 2014 that youth voter engagement was not a top priority. Poll after poll showed that young people are passionate about issues like student debt reform, college affordability, and climate change – not partisan politics.
As part of our effort to focus on the issues, Rock the Vote released the celebrity-studded #TurnOutForWhat PSA in October, the first and only viral music video of the midterm election, which quickly became the default way to discuss the 2014 midterms online and in the media. By Election Day, the video was viewed almost 11 million times on Facebook and YouTube. Ellen DeGeneres, “Good Morning America,” and more than 200,000 grassroots supporters spread the word on social media, raising visibility around the midterms into non-traditionally political circles. Lil Jon, the star of the video, put a face to the challenges everyday voters face in states like Georgia, where the voting process has become more difficult for certain voting blocs, such as young people and people of color.
Through #TurnOutForWhat and a culmination of programs – including a Protect Voting coalition of more than 60 advocacy groups, including Color of Change, HeadCount, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, GLAAD, and Voto Latino – Rock the Vote continues to focus on ways to effectively increase youth voter engagement in coming years.
“Despite the many obstacles stacked against them, young people increased their share of the electorate over 2010 rates by showing up to vote – a positive sign that they are interested in taking a more active role in the political process,” said Spillane. “Rock the Vote will continue to inspire their participation by meeting them where they are and sending the message that in order to incite real change on issues relevant to their lives, they must turn out to vote.”
About Rock the Vote
Rock the Vote is the largest non-profit and non-partisan organization in the United States building the political power of young people. Fusing pop culture, politics, and technology, Rock the Vote works to mobilize the millennial voting bloc and the youth vote, protect voting rights, and advocate for an electoral process and voting system that works for the 21st century electorate. Since 1990, Rock the Vote has revolutionized the use of pop culture, music, art and technology to inspire political activity. Now, for almost 25 years, Rock the Vote has pioneered ways to make voting easier by simplifying and demystifying voter registration and elections for young adults. Rock the Vote has run the largest voter registration drives for young people on record during the past six Presidential elections. In 2008 and 2012, our on-the-ground efforts, online organizing, and cutting-edge tools and technologies made us the largest non-partisan voter engagement campaign in the nation. All of these efforts have resulted in Rock the Vote registering over six million new voters, bringing millions more to the polls, and becoming a trusted resource for young people, government agencies, and technological innovators passionate about political discourse and engagement. See more information here.