Young people showed up in this midterm election in record numbers, the second-highest youth voter turnout in thirty years. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimates that 27% of young people (ages 18-29) turned out to vote.
Millennials and Generation Z are quickly becoming a larger voting block than Baby Boomers. Young voters know their futures are on the line, having grown up and come into adulthood in a turbulent time amidst escalating inequality and the climate and economic crises (to name a few) and a total lack of adequate response from the government. They are voting for leaders they hope will address the issues facing today's youth.
It's not just in the polls; young people are also showing up on the ballot. Florida voted in the first Gen Z U.S. Representative, 25-year-old Maxwell Alejandro Frost, who won nearly 60% of the vote. At home in Alaska, we have a long history of electing young leaders, several of whom are headed to the state legislature this year, including Genevieve Mina. Gen Zers also are stepping up to work on progressive campaigns and have been successful in electing candidates who share their values for the future.
Many political commentators also noted that youth voters were crucial in stopping the “red wave” that many expected in this election. Such a turnout should force leadership to evaluate how they engage with this demographic and push forward policies that work to ensure a future where young Americans can thrive.
Elections are far from the only time to invest in young voters. Our Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) program has engaged young people from across the state for over twenty years. AYEA’s mission is to create a statewide movement of diverse young Alaskans with the skills, connections, and inspiration to advocate for their communities. From climate strikes to lobbying in Washington D.C., AYEA youth can engage with their peers and advocate on important issues. Outside of the AYEA program, since 2020, The Alaska Center Education Fund has hired Alaskan youth from rural and urban areas to engage in voter education with our Youth Civic Engagement Fellows program. Fellows have made an impact through phone calls, emails, and community events. The latest cohort alone had over 1,000 one-on-one conversations with voters about ranked choice voting to ensure Alaskans were prepared at the polls.
As the new year approaches, we look forward to engaging young Alaskans in voter education and Democracy policy defense. Some in our legislature will assuredly take aim at ranked choice voting. There will be continued attacks on Automatic Voter Registration tied to PFD applications, which would disproportionately impact young voters. These policies have greatly improved our Democracy, and we will work to preserve these laws to continue working towards a more just and sustainable Alaska for today and future generations.
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