Young Pennsylvanians dominate voter registration ahead of midterms

By Victoria Lavelle

3ladies
(Left to right) Kathy Knight, Marilyn Gilroy, Michele Schuartz, volunteers from the League of Women’s Voters, encourage students to vote. Photo by Victoria Lavelle
1lady
Volunteer from League of Women’s Voters Michele Schuartz holds a sign reading “You Can’t Vote If You’re Not Registered.” Photo by Victoria Lavelle
sam
An inflatable Uncle Sam motivates students to register to vote. Photo by Victoria Lavelle

Millennials have the potential to become a powerful force in the upcoming midterms, and nowhere are young voters poised to make their voices heard more loudly than in Pennsylvania.

The Keystone State has seen the sharpest increase across the nation with 61 percent of new voter registrations coming from young voters, according to findings by the Democrat data firm TargetSmart.

Voter registrations continue to stream in ahead of the state’s deadline on Oct. 9 and the absentee ballot deadline on Nov. 2.

The recent surge in Democrat voter registration has landed Delaware County second in the state for voter gains, outdone only by neighboring Montgomery County, according to statistics compiled by Delaware County Democrats.

Additionally, a majority of Pennsylvania high schools report registering 85 percent of their eligible voters statewide, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. As a result, young voters outnumber their older counterparts for the first time in state history by 4.4 percent.

In fact, the 2018 midterms are projected to be the first ever U.S. elections in which there are more young Americans eligible to vote than their elder counterparts nationwide.

Moreover, 59 percent of millennial voters favor the Democratic Party, according to political data by the Pew Research Center

Nevertheless, it still remains anybody’s guess if young Americans will actually show up at the polls and help shift the majority control of Congress back to Democrats.

Traditionally, young voters across the nation do not vote in large numbers. Findings from Tufts University’s National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) data suggests roughly just “one out of every five” students who registered to vote.

Optimism that younger Americans tend to vote Democrat is offset because they are traditionally less reliable voters in midterm elections, compared to the more mature base of Republican voters.

Recent polling underscored the real risk that millennial voters won’t turn out as hoped. Just 28 percent of young adults say they are committed to voting in the 2018 midterm elections, as determined in a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI).

In contrast, an overwhelming 74 percent of surveyed seniors nationwide have pledged to vote with “absolute certainty” in the upcoming elections.

Since Pennsylvania’s dormant constituency of young voters happens to be the state’s largest voting bloc, some progressive advocacy groups organized a grassroots campaign earlier this year hoping to capitalize at the ballot box.

Last April, super- PAC NextGen America launched efforts to target college campuses, including community colleges across the county, as it hopes to flip six Congressional seats into Democrats hands Nov. 6.

Two of these seats include Delaware County’s vacant 5th District Congressional seat formerly held by U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) and Chester County’s 6th District Congressional seat held by Rep. Ryan Costello (R., Pa.)

Withal, the Keystone State will hold elections for the U.S. House and Senate, the Governor’s seat, and the Commonwealth’s General Assembly on Nov. 6.

NextGen America has reported that more than 5,000 students at Pennsylvania colleges have registered to vote since the start of the fall 2018 semester, with more work in the final weeks leading up to the elections, according to the state director of NextGen America Jarrett Smith.

“Once a person registers to vote with us, we continue to stay in contact to educate them about their candidates, polling places, and to ensure they know when election day is,” Smith explained. “The stakes are just too high to sit this election cycle out, and the fact that young people are registering at such high numbers demonstrates the urgency of this election. Voting is the only way to make sure that their voices — the voices of the people who study here, work here, live here — are heard.”

Another key factor that could lure young Americans to the voting booths this fall is President Donald J. Trump’s approval ratings.

A recent poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found 72 percent of millennial voters disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, while just 25 percent of their generation approve of the Republican president’s performance.

Voting patterns of young Americans have proven to be a key indicator of voting behavior, according to research by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Key takeaways confirm that voting is habit-forming, so when young people learn the voting process and vote, then they are more likely to vote in future elections.

More importantly, the largest population of American voters are not Democrats, Republicans, or even Independents.

Undoubtedly, it’s the one hundred million “non-voters” who account for the vast majority of eligible voters in the nation that ultimately have the greatest impact on U.S. elections by default.

Still, the low turnout rates of young voters remain deeply worrisome heading into the midterms regardless of the recent gains in young voter registration. The urgency for college students and millennials to show up to the ballot box this November and pull their electoral power into practice is crucial.

American democracy and the fundamental freedoms that the forefathers inked are at risk.

Student debt continues to skyrocket, a single trip to the emergency room is certain to financially cripple most uninsured young Americans, a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, diverse equality, and national gun control measures all hang in the balance.

Other concerns to carry to the ballot box include the numerous warnings coming from former and current members within the Trump administration that portray him as a president who has come “unhinged.”

The scathing reports continue to haunt the political establishment suggesting Trump is “unfit” as Commander in Chief, leaving some voters to cringe in disbelief ahead of the midterms.

One of Trump’s most outspoken critics raising serious concerns regarding his conduct is former Republican New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman.

“The president’s behavior has troubled me from the very beginning,” Whitman explained during an interview with NowThis News. “His language that he uses, his demonizing people, his dismissing people and marginalizing them has always been problematic. I think he’s undermining some of the very basic tenets that really form our democracy. He admires strong leaders, but his definition of strong is more on the dictatorship side than on a strong democrat if leader.

Trump said early on that he thought Kim Jong-in did a wonderful job being so young and taking over his country. Well, I guess that’s okay if you don’t mind that he uses machine guns to eviscerate those who oppose him or gets someone else to go poison his brother.”

To “not vote” undermines the tribulations and sacrifices of all those in times past who fought for the liberties and freedoms of today.

It’s easy to take representation for granted in the US, but with the issues and obstacles effecting most young Americans today, it’s a risk not worth taking.

No matter which political party you support, be sure to make your voices heard in November.

More information about voter registration is available at PaVoterServices.pa.gov

Contact Victoria LaVelle at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu