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Vote Early Day and another influencer election cycle
Today's national civic holiday and how causes, candidates, and campaigns are once again teaming up with influencers in 2022
Today is Vote Early Day, and across the country there are events geared at helping Americans cast their ballots. The national civic holiday was founded by MTV and a cadre of partners in 2020 to spread awareness about how, where, and when you can vote early.
I chatted with Bryce Bennett, project director at Vote Early Day, about what he called the “day of action and celebration.”
“We chose this event to be a holiday for a reason. Politics these days can be very negative and discouraging and toxic, and it's that reason a lot of people decide to opt out. So by having partners build fun and engaging and exciting celebrations that invite people to cast their ballots, it really does so much to lower the barrier for entry to our democracy,” Bennett said, adding that 220 million Americans have the option to vote early in 2022.
The Vote Early Day coalition is hosting an event tonight in Atlanta, Georgia, called Votelanta, featuring a Gucci Mane concert. There will be snacks à la Pizza to the Polls (the organization will send 750+ pizzas across the U.S. throughout early voting), and students from Georgia State University, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morehouse College and Morris Brown College will compete in a battle of the bands.
Asked specifically how Vote Early Day is working to reach young voters, Bennett emphasized the holiday’s coalition of partners, which include groups like Alliance for Youth Organizing, Campus Vote Project, MOVE Texas, The New Georgia Project, Voters of Tomorrow, NextGen America, Students Learn Students Vote, and When We All Vote.
“It’s about engaging with partners on the ground who reflect these communities… people that look and sound and feel like Gen Z,” he said.
‘My ancestors, they basically fought their way to this position, so why am I not even taking advantage of this?’
Speaking of When We All Vote – the voter engagement organization founded by former First Lady Michelle Obama – has held a number of events this month geared at mobilizing young voters.
As part of the group’s HBCU Voting Squad Challenge, Jessica Love, a 34-year-old salon and spa student at Drake State Community & Technical College in Huntsville, Alabama, helped organize an event to educate voters on campus. On Election Day, she’ll help lead a ‘Party at the Polls’ event in partnership with When We All Vote.
In a conversation with Love, she said that while she “wasn’t into voting” when she was younger, that all changed once she “learned the history.”
“When I see how the African American women and men, how they fought and they marched to get their right to vote, that inspired me. My ancestors, they basically fought their way to this position, so why am I not even taking advantage of this?” she said about recognizing the importance of voting.
Love says she views voting as a vehicle for change, and that there are issues in her community, such as homelessness, that she wants local elected leaders and officials to help address. Her goal with When We All Vote is to share the history of voting rights with younger members of her community so that they too can get involved and exercise their rights.
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Another influencer election cycle
If it wasn’t already obvious in 2020, political operatives and strategists are now more than ever tapping influencers to promote their causes, candidates, and campaigns.
Just read Taylor Lorenz’s colorful Washington Post story from this week: ‘Inside Democrats’ elaborate attempt to woo TikTok influencers.’
Beyond TikTok influencers, celebrities like Hailey Bieber have posted on Instagram, encouraging their millions of followers to vote by directing them to the nonpartisan voter and civic engagement group I am a voter. Olivia Rodrigo, who also made a video with I am a voter., wore a bedazzled “Vote” shirt at her new Glossier makeup collection launch this week.
‘The experience of being an Asian American came first’: RUN AAPI’s influencer campaign
Aiming to reach young Asian American voters, RUN AAPI launched its own midterm campaign called ‘Give a F*ck About Midterms.’
Following a rise in anti-Asian violence post-pandemic, RUN AAPI – which stands for Represent Us Now AAPI – wanted to help connect the dots between the policies that impact young Asian Americans’ lives and the importance of voting, said the group’s senior advisor, Linh Nguyen.
To do so, they teamed up with Asian American influencers with loyal followings.
While these influencers weren’t “like the Daniel Dae Kim’s of the Asian celebrity world,” Nguyen said, “it was influencers who have been so intentional with their followers.”
“We knew that we had to be and show up in spaces where young Asians are at,” Nguyen said. “Showing up is half the battle, the second part of showing up is doing it in a way where you actually respect the culture, you respect the community dynamics, and you respect the language, and keeping things incredibly authentic.”
“The experience of being an Asian American came first before we wanted to make that very specific ask of ‘All y’all registered to vote?’ ‘Do you know how to check your registration?’ ‘And then of course we’re pivoting toward early voting, getting as many young Asians to vote early as possible,’” Nguyen said.
Explaining why she got involved in the influencer campaign, Recel of @alwaysbemyfoodie on Instagram said: “As an Asian American, I want to show up for my community. I've been guilty of being more of a 'passive' voter in the past, so I want to make more of an effort to truly educate myself on the candidates running for office and to advocate for issues that are important to me and the AAPI community.”
In addition to its influencer campaign, RUN AAPI is organizing in Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.
“These are states that are completely redefining the South,” Nguyen said. “We talk so much about this new emerging Democratic base, but our belief is that young AAPI voters are still kind of neglected in that conversation or that political landscape when it comes to ‘Ok, if we’re carving out a path to victory here in Texas, who is part of that path?' We know that yes, it’s got to be young Latino, Hispanic voters. We have to make sure that we are engaging with young Black women. But again, we tend to forget that young AAPI voting electorate. They’re just not engaged with,” she said.
“Specifically and regionally, we know that with these swing districts, we could absolutely be that deciding vote,” Nguyen said of the AAPI youth community.
RUN AAPI hosted an in-person event in Houston, Texas, will hold an in-person event in Raleigh, North Carolina on Sunday and sent direct mail (in the form of postcards) in Arizona to women under 35.
“⚠️Time to BeVoting ⚠️”
Youth organizers with Grassroots Democrats HQ – a group that supports Democratic campaigns via field programs and GOTV work such as phone-banking, text-banking and canvassing – are grinding to reach as many young Americans as possible with information about voting in the final days of the 2022 midterm cycle.
GDHQ’s youth program this cycle has included text banks with Voters of Tomorrow. This week, they held a youth GOTV rally called “⚠️Time to BeVoting ⚠️” for Democratic candidate in California’s 27th district, Christy Smith.
Across the 2022 cycle, GDHQ’s youth program (geared towards reaching 18-29-year-old voters) has:
Texted over 970k people (with Voters of Tomorrow)
Made over 80,000 calls
Paid and trained over 100 youth organizers
Harvard IOP youth poll
The Harvard IOP released its latest youth poll on Thursday. The poll found that 40% of 18-29-year-olds say they'll "definitely" vote in 2022, which is on par with 2018 levels. It also found that a majority of young Americans believe the rights of others are under attack, and that 72% of LGBTQ youth feel their own rights are under attack.
We The Young People, Moments of Truth
Be sure to tune in Tuesday, November 1 for PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs’ ‘We the Young People, Moments of Truth’ hosted by teen reporters Tiffany Rodriguez & Berto Suarez. The special showcases the voices of young people as the 2022 U.S. midterms get underway.
Sign up for the livestream here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/we-the-young-people-moments-of-truth-tickets-428083728957