Inspire Fellow Robin Peterson recently helped at a campaign and realized young people weren't on her call list.
Untapped Campaign Potential: Why Candidates Need to Engage the Largest Age-Based Voting Bloc in America
In Colorado’s 2018 primary election, four candidates competed for a position on the general election ballot. I’m 18 years old and this was my first election, and I was incredibly excited to get involved with a campaign. I first got involved in politics with an organization called Inspire U.S., a national nonpartisan organization that encourages peer to peer voter registration and inspires young people to vote. During the past two years, I’ve registered more than 350 of my student peers and both years helped my high school win the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award for having at least 85% of the senior class registered to vote. I wanted to become civically engaged in my community and this was the most direct way to start.
When I signed up to volunteer with a campaign, I chose the candidate I believed would make the best Colorado governor. Almost immediately one of the campaign coordinators contacted me and asked if I would phone bank for the candidate. I had no problem talking to people about who I thought would make the best governor so I agreed. As soon as I started making phone calls, I immediately noticed the demographic I was calling. Every person I called was over the age of 60. Given my background, I was peeved that the campaign I helped was not reaching out to the very demographic I helped to engage. When I contacted the campaign coordinator, their response was, “This is the demographic [people over 60] that has consistently voted in the last elections.”
So why should campaigns care about reaching out to new voters? Young people are the future. One day, we’re going to take over Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House. What our current politicians do affects the future of our country to be passed down to generations. Not only does it benefit our country when young people vote, but also when elected officials listen. 18-29 year-olds make up the biggest voting bloc in our country, so if candidates started reaching out to us, they’d have a much better chance of winning simply based on population.
While voter turnout has previously been lower among the younger demographic, actually engaging this group of voters through campaigning, rather than ignoring them, could shift their mindset towards voting and increase turnout. In fact, students registered and pledged to vote by Inspired Leaders are twice as likely to vote as their peers statewide! If someone talks to us about voting, we are more likely to vote! We are a huge voter bloc and we could have a lot of influence if we exercise our vote and elected officials listen. Yes, it is a risk to reach out to an inconsistent voter demographic, but sometimes to make a change it starts by doing the hard thing.
So, you should care that young people vote, but most importantly the people campaigning for an office should care. No matter who you are or what you believe in, voting is a nonpartisan issue and it goes for both sides. Candidates that engage new and younger voters to can tap into the largest age-based voting bloc in the country.