For the first time, in the November election, young people will comprise the largest eligible voting bloc, and NextGen America, a voter registration and engagement group, is running the largest youth organizing effort in U.S. history.
As students arrived on campuses, NextGen America staff and volunteers were there to register and encourage them to vote in November. The group planned to register 100,000 students nationally during the early weeks of the academic year alone, and it will continue a massive effort to register and engage voters right up to the deadline for the Nov. 6 elections.
NextGen is backed by Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager and activist. Begun in 2014 as NextGen Climate, the group educated young voters about climate change and rallied them to support pro-environment candidates.
But after Hillary Clinton’s loss, NextGen’s mission was broadened to focus on registering and getting young people to the polls.
“Young people are overwhelmingly progressive and ready to fight back against the Trump agenda,” said Sean Manning, communications director for NextGen Wisconsin. “We’re going to make sure that we have record high youth turnout in November.”
NextGen has a sizable presence in Wisconsin, which is among the most critical swing states in the upcoming elections. The goal is to obtain pledges to vote from 27,000 young Wisconsinites.
Propelled by school shootings as well as Republican attacks on women and minorities, youth registration already is surging, according to Manning. Since last year, NextGen has focused on registering, engaging and mobilizing young people in 11 states.
In Wisconsin, about 80 volunteers are engaging with young people face to face, offering to help guide them through the sometimes-confusing voter registration rules that Republicans enacted to deter them from casting ballots.
For the spring Wisconsin Supreme Court election, NextGen helped to mobilize 18- to 35-year-olds through digital ads and canvassing door to door. Manning believes the effort contributed to Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet’s solid defeat of a right-wing Republican handpicked by Scott Walker.
In the run-up to Nov. 6, NextGen volunteers will be spread out over 35 campuses in the state, including six community colleges. NextGen Wisconsin is partnering with Leaders Igniting Transformation, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin and For Our Future.
In addition to the old-fashioned campaign tactic of knocking on doors, NextGen will utilize print advertising on campuses, as well as digital tools such as Facebook and SnapChat. Volunteers will be able to register voters on tablets, making the process faster and easier.