More than 100,000 Californians aged 16 and 17 are now pre-registered to vote, according to a recent statement from the state’s Secretary of State, Alex Padilla. The impact of youth activism following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was highlighted by Padilla.
“The impact of recent events is undeniable,” Padilla said. “It’s absolutely served as a motivator for young people to pay more attention.”
That’s not the only good news regarding voter registration. Experts are predicting the youth vote could be a major factor in this year’s midterms.
A new Harvard Institute of Politics poll suggest that “vote them out” mantra, a chant heard prominently at March for Our Lives events across the U.S. in March, is now a driving force in American politics, especially among young Democratic voters.
And right now, the enthusiasm is sky high. In fact, nearly 5,000 new voters, most under the age of 30, registered to vote the day of the March for Our Lives rally.
“Young Democrats are driving nearly all of the increase in enthusiasm; a majority (51%) report that they will ‘definitely’ vote in November,” Axios reports.
That represents a gigantic gain from the 2014 midterm cycle, when just 28 percent of young Democratic voters (ages 18-29) were “definitely” going to vote.
Nationally, only 20 percent of voters ages 18-29 cast votes in the 2014 midterms, the lowest ever recorded, according to the Miami Herald.
In California, 90 percent of those who pre-registered were either Democrats or not affiliated with a party. With areas like Orange County playing host to multiple competitive races, Republicans are facing quite a headwind as the election nears.
One of the hurdles the Democratic Party has faced for years is a weak turnout during midterm elections. All indications are that 2018 will represent a dramatic change, especially among younger voters.
Meanwhile, student survivors of the Parkland school shooting continue to reshape political activism in 2018. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student activist David Hogg is taking a gap year and not attending college in the fall so that he can help work on midterm elections and educate voters.
It’s likely that Hogg and his fellow Parkland activists will be heavily involved in the Florida Senate race, pitting Democrat Bill Nelson against Republican Rick Scott. As governor of Florida, Scott was known as an NRA yes man, and signed into law some of the most radical, pro-NRA guns laws in the country.
Students are getting some help too. Tom Steyer, the billionaire former hedge fund executive, announced in January he was putting $30 million into getting out the youth vote, with a heavy emphasis on Florida.
Parkland activists have already made their presences felt in campaigns nationwide, and in California. Students and activists all over Southern California has held marches, rallies, and forums to bring attention to the issue of gun violence. While an NRA endorsement was once a badge of honor, it may soon turn into a scarlet letter.
Last month, when a Republican candidate for the Maine state House called Parkland students Emma Gonzalez a “skinhead lesbian” and Hogg a “moron” and a “baldfaced liar” on Twitter, he had to drop out of the race because the backlash was so strong.
A high school student in California’s 25th Congressional District called on Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) to return “blood money” from the NRA. Knight, who has an A rating from the NRA, has given no indication he intends to do so.
Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) was recently approached by a a mother of two who asked if she would forgo donations from the NRA, in light of the school shooting in Parkland. Walters, who also has an A rating from the NRA, fled rather than answer the question.
Meanwhile, the new Harvard youth poll comes just one day after a Reuters survey found that Republicans are leaking voters on the other end of the age spectrum — white, educated, older voters are moving away from the GOP.
In fact, there’s been a 12-point swing toward Democrats among that crucial voting bloc, yet another ominous sign for embattled Republicans.
Dan Desai Martin contributed to this article.