Things young people love: Voting (yes, seriously)
By Keya Vakil
April 12, 2019

In recent years, Americans have enjoyed mocking Millennials and Generation Z for their love of avocado toast, smartphone addictions and killing chain restaurants. But based on new data, there is something else young people in Virginia love – Voting.

Forty-one percent of Virginia voters ages 18-35 voted in last year’s midterm elections, a 21% increase from the 2014 midterms.

Millennials and Gen Z aren’t exactly known for their strong track record of voting, but the tide seems to be turning. This is in part due to groups like NextGen, a national progressive organization committed to voter outreach and registration.

The organization, which is funded by billionaire Tom Steyer, registered more than 20,000 young Virginians last year on 25 college campuses. They also recruited over 1,500 volunteers and knocked on 99,000 doors across Virginia.

NextGen primarily focuses on turning out young and minority voters in the Commonwealth, especially at historically black colleges and community colleges.

According to NextGen’s data, 64% of students they registered at Hampton University voted in the election that sent now Rep. Elaine Luria (D-02) to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, over at Virginia Union University, 46% of individuals registered by NextGen voted in the race that incumbent Rep. Donald McEachin (D-04) won.

This surge in youth turnout seems particularly beneficial for Democrats. According to analysis of Pew Research Center data, 59% of Americans 18 to 24 say they’re Democrats, while only 33% say they’re Republicans.

Even more concerning for Republicans, these young Americans seem to be holding on to their Democratic views as they age, upending a longstanding notion that voters age out of liberal beliefs.

Perhaps as a result of this enormous lack of youth support, Republicans around the country seem committed to attacking voting rights. In Virginia, Del. Tony Wilt (R-26) and Sen. Mark Peake (R-22) passed bills that would have made it more difficult to vote, prompting Gov. Ralph Northam to exercise his veto power.  

While some legislators attempt to restrict voting rights, groups like NextGen remain committed to expanding them and getting more young Virginians involved in democracy. They hosted a Youth Vote Day of Action Wednesday to share with students about how they can get involved in this year’s elections. And guess what, they didn’t even have to bribe attendees with avocado toast or a selfie station. Go figure!

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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