It seems like every election year we hear about how much depends on young people coming out to vote. After all, millennials account for about half of the electorate. So on one hand, we shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of attention is being heaped on young voters this year—especially those who haven’t voted before and those who haven’t even registered yet.
But on the other hand, this year does feel different, and one reason is the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After a former Douglas student entered the school on February 14, 2018, and shot and killed 17 students and adults, several Douglas students began calling for change in US gun laws. They have led rallies, walkouts, and marches, and now they are leading a get-out-the-vote campaign.
That campaign seems to be working. In Florida, according to analysis by one data firm, the number of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who registered to vote increased by 41 percent in the two and a half months after the mass shooting compared to the same period of time before the shooting. The share of newly registered voters in Florida who are that age increased from 26.23 percent to 34.22 percent, a jump of about 8 percent.
Other states—particularly important swing states—have seen similar results. In Pennsylvania, youth voter registration increased from 45.2 percent to 61.4 percent of new registrants. In both New York and Virginia, the increase was nearly 11 percent. The bump in Arizona was 8.16 percent, and in Minnesota it was 4.68 percent.
Voting is a fundamental building block of a democracy, but young people notoriously neglect to exercise that right. You can encourage the older teens in your life to vote. Rock the Vote is a great resource where teens can get inspired, learn about their rights, find their polling place, find other ways to get involved on issues, and more, including checking whether they are registered. At the Parkland student–led website Vote for Our Lives, teens can find ways to take action locally, keep up with the Vote for Our Lives tour, sign up to volunteer, and register to vote.
Students can learn more about the importance of voting and making their voices heard with Every Vote Matters by Thomas A. Jacobs, J.D., and Natalie C. Jacobs, J.D.
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