Photo by Susan Melkisethian via Flickr

Earlier this year, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) announced an unprecedented voter registration drive with a mission to register five million new Black voters before the midterm elections in November.

It appears that drive has sparked registrations everywhere.

A new TargetSmart analysis of voter registration data in the 39 states with available data shows that registration rates for voters ages 18 to 29 have significantly increased in key battleground states over the past seven months, presaging the increased impact youth voters may have on the upcoming midterm and presidential elections.

Using Feb. 14, 2018, as a reference point — the date of the Parkland shooting massacre, which spurred a youth-led movement to register young voters across the country — TargetSmart’s analysis found that the share of youth registrants nationwide has increased by 2.16 percent, a potentially impactful surge in youth enrollment.

With more than a dozen states’ primaries still left and months until voter registration deadlines, the findings are an early quantitative sign that youth turnout is on the rise for this year’s midterm elections.

The state-by-state analysis shows that younger voters are poised to have an outsized impact in key battleground races. Pennsylvania — which has November elections for U.S. senator, governor, and many critical House races — saw youth voter registration surge by over 16 points after Feb. 14, with new registrants jumping from 45.2 percent to 61.4 percent.

“As the largest eligible voting bloc, young people have the power to make the difference in critical races across the country, and it is clear that they are energized like never before to make their voices heard,” said Heather Hargreaves, executive director of NextGen America, a nonprofit that works to prevent damage to the climate by transitioning a clean energy economy based on equality, inclusion and a shared and sustainable prosperity.

“NextGen America has seen this passion first hand and has already registered over 11,800 young people to vote in Pennsylvania this year alone,” Hargreaves said. “We are organizing every day to ensure that young voters head to the polls in November and ultimately create long-lasting political power necessary for progressive change in our country.”

Pennsylvania voter participation in 2016 was roughly equal to the national rate of 61 percent, but the state can encourage more eligible Americans to vote by adopting new policies to reduce barriers and make voting more convenient, according to a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington.

Pennsylvania stands to gain more than more than 323,000 additional voters just by implementing automatic voter registration, CAP’s analysis found. Thousands more could participate in elections if the state restored voting rights to formerly incarcerated people and invested in integrated voter engagement and outreach.

Ahead of this November’s midterm elections, the report examined the problem of low voter participation in America, including structural barriers that keep Americans from having their voices heard.

Overall, 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 elections and 143 million eligible people didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms.

Of the policies considered in the report, Pennsylvania offers online voter registration and automatically restores voting rights to formerly incarcerated people upon release from prison.

By adopting other pro-voter policies in addition to automatic voter registration, Pennsylvania could significantly increase voter participation, the report noted.

For example, more than 292,000 additional people could have voted in 2016 in Pennsylvania if the state offered same-day voter registration.

According to the report, other states with critical elections that may decide control of the U.S. Senate and House also showed large increases in youth registration, including Arizona (+8.2 point increase), Florida (+8), Virginia (+10.5), Indiana (+9.9), and New York (+10.7).

The increases fall in line with the voter registration mission of the NNPA, a trade group that represents 220 Black-owned media companies across the U.S.

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the NNPA, has led the initiative and has helped spread the word to the more than 20 million weekly subscribers to Black-owned newspapers.

NNPA’s campaign initiative also focuses on an aggressive voter registration drive, community-level education on important issues, and a mobilization effort, which are all designed to reach young, Black eligible voters, particularly in battleground states such as Texas and North Carolina.

“This coming November, the 2018 midterm elections will be one of the most important elections for American Americans in our lifetime,” Chavis said. “This is about voting rights and the enormous suffering and bloodshed that our people have experienced to make American democracy real and fair. Yet, this is also about responsibility.”

Chavis and the NNPA have also partnered with organizations like the NAACP, to accomplish the goal of registering these 5 million new, Black voters.

“I am proud that the NNPA is encouraging and mobilizing the Black community to get 5 million more African Americans registered to vote across the nation,” he said. “We have to take over and overwhelm our political adversaries at the voting polls in 2018. This is a payback year.”

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *