We are so proud of young voters who showed up increasing the youth turnout by roughly 50% over 2014 and proved that we are not to be f’ed with. Early estimates are signaling this could be the highest turnout for 18-29 year-olds since 18 year-olds were granted the right to vote in 1971.
We are showing up because we understand what’s at stake. We see what’s happening to our DREAMer friends and immigrant neighbors. We see politicians putting their careers above our safety. We see science ignored while our futures grow increasingly vulnerable to climate change. We see family members with pre-existing conditions worried they won’t be able to get the treatment they need. We see corporations getting tax cuts while we are expected to pay more for higher education. We experience bigotry, xenophobia and misogyny as young women, members of the LGBTQ community, and as the most diverse generation in our country’s history. We see people’s voices in our democracy actively being suppressed. We see the hate and the fear mongering that is tearing us apart.
We won’t have it anymore. This is our country and our future. We have a vision of an America that’s inclusive and forward thinking about the challenges we face. That is why we showed up and will continue showing up at record numbers.
We turned the impossible into possible setting new norms and putting unthinkable races within reach. The youth agenda was overwhelmingly progressive choosing Democratic candidates 2-to-1 with 67% to Democrats and 32% to Republicans in U.S. House races – marking the greatest gap in vote choice and the highest percent support to Democrat in the last quarter century. Our votes helped to elect one of the most diverse slates of federal candidates, decided thousands of elections up and down the ballot and impacted progressive ballot measures across the country, including minimum wage increases, the elimination of a Jim Crow-era jury law, and the protection of transgender rights.
We also strengthened our democracy in several states with the passage of pro-voting ballot measures, including automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and the restoration of voting rights to 1.4 million returning citizens in Florida who have had their voice denied for too long. We also triumphed and rejected Kansas Secretary of State and vote-suppressor-in-chief Kris Kobach’s bid for Governor, shutting down his degenerate agenda to suppress voters. You’re welcome, America. However, the fight for voting rights continues with two states passing restrictive voter ID laws that will directly impact access to the vote for young people and marginalized communities. We must continue to build an electoral system that is pro-voting and push back against efforts to restrict the freedom to vote. We demand the newly elected Congress take action to protect our voting rights by restoring and expanding the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Parties and candidates should take note: our generation is showing up in record numbers and by 2020, we will comprise nearly 40% of voters. We overcame direct and indirect voter suppression, navigated confusing election laws, and showed up to make a bold statement: we are here and more of us are coming. Those watching us can count on this year’s historic turnout as the beginning. We are organizing and will be engaging the nearly 9 million who turn 18 between now and the 2020 election. We will be mobilizing and we will be holding elected leaders accountable. And, those who don’t agree with our vision for an inclusive America should start looking for new jobs. This is our country. It’s our future and we are fighting for it.
At Rock the Vote, we will continue to invest in young people and help them build their long-term political power. As a country, if we believe in the importance of youth voices in our democracy, we must do better to educate and engage new voters, giving them the information and tools necessary to navigate the political process and make informed choices. We must embolden young people not just to vote, but to hold elected officials accountable, organize their peers and even run for office. And we must continue to move forward and believe change is possible, even when progress is slow or the odds aren’t in our favor. We are grateful to work with and alongside an incredibly diverse and powerful generation and to fight for a system that works for all Americans.
Note: Youth voter turnout represents the proportion of all young citizens who cast ballots. There are several sources of voter turnout estimates, all of which have benefits and drawbacks. For example, some of the estimates depend on data that are not available for months. CIRCLE’s day-after youth turnout estimate tracks well with the Census Current Population Survey (CPS) dataset and can be calculated immediately. CIRCLE has long interrogated all of these sources and, while they do not match exactly, they follow the same trends, which makes this an early indicator.