Gen Z poised to impact election: ‘Excited about democracy and saving it’
Gen Z has already cast more ballots in the early vote than in the 2016 election
The presidential election is days away and early voting has begun in earnest nationwide. Republicans and Democrats have poured resources in courting a demographic whose political clout could potentially declare the 46th commander in chief: Gen Z.
NextGen America, a diverse coalition of young people, is determined to help elect progressive candidates that shape not only their generation but the future.
“I think we already feel pretty steadfast in the belief that Gen Z is ready and excited,” Briana Megid, deputy national press secretary at NextGen America, exclusively tells theGrio, citing polling that 70% of the youth were motivated to vote.
“And right now it’s more so taking that enthusiasm and making it to action and teaching them that it’s one thing to feel good about it and it’s another thing to like, take your pen and fill out your ballot.”
NextGen America’s National Black Youth Vote Manager Krys White concurs. She maintains that those in Gen Z, identified as those born in 1996 and after, want to pull the lever even if they are not particularly enthused by the incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“I think that Gen Zers are just kind of excited about democracy and saving it. They really care about the issues specifically that affect them,” White maintains.
“And I think that Gen Zers really, while they may not be excited about the candidates so much, they’re definitely excited about the voting process, because for a lot of them, this will be the first time that they will vote.”
Recent data from Tufts University shows that the youth turnout is exceeding the margin of victory in states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina. More than 3 million ballots have been cast by those in the 18-29 age group as of late October. In Florida alone, there have been 257,720 voters in this age bracket, six times more than in the current time period four years ago.
The numbers shatter the narrative that younger voters are apathetic and beholden to “purity.”
“When someone doesn’t show up to the ballot box, it’s not always by choice. It’s sometimes by all the failures in our traditional political system to bring them out. So I would say, like young people … we’re very transient,” Megid says.
Megid continues that many Gen Zer’s have been moving back home during the pandemic and not as nomadic as their older counterparts. It’s made it more difficult for traditional campaigns to target the voting bloc.
“It’s very convenient narrative to call Gen Zer’s apathetic, but in reality, Gen Z has just not been activated. And so they’re taking it in their own hands to make politics their own,” she declares.
White adds that the pandemic and global protests that have arisen after the death of George Floyd are also animating factors to get out the vote.
Gen Z is paying critical attention to the issues even if the messengers do not reflect the diversity of their ranks.
“I think Trump represents, I’m going to say old cotton money, capitalism and, you know, Gen Zer’s … they can’t really relate to that. I mean, if racism is one of the underpinnings of activating them now, I think that, you know, a candidate that represents that faction just sucks for them,” White says.
“And then Biden, while he is maybe not the candidate that they want to see. They see him and like I said, a catalyst to get to where they need to go faster.”
Lateshia Parker is the press secretary of NextGen Michigan and cited the youth movement on the ground in Detroit to bring about change.
“We’ve been seeing excitement from them in terms of this election and wanting to take control of their future. But the main thing that we’re seeing is that they’re more issue-oriented,” Parker says.
“So they’re more focused on health care, cost of college, racial justice. So these are some of the things that they’re trying to make sure that the candidates that they’re going to support have plans for.”
Regardless of who will sit in the Oval office next January, the goal of NextGen is to create a lasting impression on politics that holds those in office accountable.
“We have to continue to make them accountable in terms of making sure that they’re acting on the things that they promised. And if they’re not, then you’re holding them accountable to that. So that’s what we’re trying to encourage and make young voters understand that this is a to make them more politically engaged for the long run,” Parker stresses.
“So that’s not just okay. You vote on this election, you get the candidate in office that you want in office, and then you walk away. No,” Parker stresses.
“Our goal is to create lifelong politically engaged voters.”
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