a real surge in youth voting

According to CIRCLE, youth turnout has doubled in Virginia over the past three gubernatorial races, from 17% of eligible young people in 2009 to 34% yesterday. Virginians under the age of 30 also tilted dramatically to the Democratic side. Just over half (54%) of young Virginians had chosen Hillary Clinton one year ago; 69% voted for the Democrat, Ralph Northam, yesterday. Voting in force and tilting to one party is how to have real impact.

In New Jersey, where this year’s gubernatorial race was not particularly competitive, the youth turnout trend was flat.

Closer to home, Boston (like several major cities) held a mayoral election yesterday. We don’t know the youth turnout rate there because the data aren’t available yet. However, in the past two Boston mayoral elections (each conducted in an odd-numbered year), youth turnout did not reach even two percent. In contrast, last November, about 35% of young eligible voters voted in Boston, and 80%-87% of the registered young adults in each ward turned out. Although there’s work to be done to educate and engage young people in local politics–and some excellent organizers are doing that right now in Boston–it’s also bad to hold elections in off years. If you want your city to flourish, you need a youth perspective. You should hold elections on years when one in three–instead of one in fifty–young people turn out.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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