Luring Millennials to Cast Ballots

Millennials and other voters gravitated toward a selfie station at the Hyattsville Public Library. (Photo: Charity Hester/HUNS)
Olivia Lang, 26, took a selfie after voting because of “what our people had to fight for in order for me to have this right.” (Photo: Charity Hester/HUNS)

Jada Wright got out early today to vote at the Hyattsville Public Library in Maryland.

At 23, Wright and other millennials are close to becoming the largest group of eligible voters. The Pew Research Center indicates that roughly half of eligible millennials voted in the last three presidential races in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

However, only 31 percent said they would vote in this year’s midterm election, according to an October survey by NBC News and the GenForward project at the University of Chicago. Forty percent of millennials said they would vote in a biannual survey by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

That’s part of the reason that everyone from activists to celebrities have been encouraging them to cast ballots. Young voters have taken to social media to speak out on the importance of voting and urging their peers to do the same.

“Young adult turnout depends on factors besides demographics: the candidates, the success of voter mobilization efforts, satisfaction with the economy and the direction of the country,” according to Richard Fry, a senior researcher for the Pew Research Center.

Wright, who voted in the 2016 presidential election, is among the two-thirds of millennials who disapprove of Donald Trump’s job performance, according to Pew’s study on the generation gap in politics. She was determined to make it to the polls for the midterm election, regarded as “the most important of our lifetime.”

“After the 2016 fiasco, I knew that I needed to take the appropriate steps towards creating a democracy for all,” Wright said.

Wide generation gap in evaluations of Trump’s job performance in first year

In an effort to repel voter suppression and voter apathy, celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Diddy, Meek Mill and Common have been working to get their fans to the polls.

Winfrey gave a speech in Marietta, Georgia, on Thursday in support of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. To encourage black voters specifically, she referenced the fight of their ancestors to secure the right to vote in 1870.

“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote — wherever you are in this state, in this country — you are dishonoring your family,” Winfrey said. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams, when you don’t vote.”

To drive the point home to young, black voters, Diddy, Tiffany Haddish, DJ Khaled and Monica performed at the “Bring It Home” Midnight Rally Concertat Florida A&M University in support of Andrew Gillum’s campaign for governor.

Efforts to influence young voters proved effective today as Amanda Rose, 22, headed to the polls with no full understanding of what her vote meant politically, but feeling morally obliged.

“I chose my candidates based on what my parents chose,” Rose said as she waited in linein Hyattsville. “I work in politics, so that’s how I heard about them as well as social media and different news outlets.”

Early results from an ABC exit poll indicate that Rose and other millennials will make up 13 percent of this year’s voters, compared to 11 percent two years ago in 2014.

Olivia Lang, 26, expressed the same sentiment as Winfrey in regard to voting as a social statement. She said she voted today “because of the history behind it and what our people had to fight for in order for me to have this right.”

As for voter suppression or inconveniences, Lang, Wright and Rose said they were all unaffected and willing to stand in long lines, which can be a deterrent for millennials who don’t like to wait. Lang attributes her determination to vote to being more knowledgeable and willing to learn.

“I believe my voting experience this time around was easy,” she said. “Because I expressed interest, people around me were excited to help and as a result I gained more knowledge that will aid me in future elections.”